“I want to wear sandals,” Max told me over the weekend. He was gearing up for an after-school trip yesterday to see Incredibles 2 (this was for the third tie) and have pizza.
Max typically wears his foot braces on weekdays; on weekends, he wears sneakers or sandals.
“Sure!” I said.
And then, he announced that he did not want to take his usual backpack to school. It’s a rolling kind that says Fireman Max on it in red letters. He wanted to take a backpack I had once gotten at an event, one with padded shoulder straps could carry on his back.
And now, it was beginning to occur to me: He did not want to stand out from his peers at school. Max’s high school has a lot of students with Down syndrome. They don’t wear foot braces. Most do not use iPads for communication or use wheeled backpacks.
“Yes, I’ll get out that backpack and you can wear it to school on Wednesday,” I told him.
Yesterday morning, as I was getting ready for work, he had another request: He wanted to take an Uber.
“You mean you want to take an Uber home from school?” I confirmed.
Yes, he did.
“Max, I don’t think you’re ready to take an Uber alone yet,” I said.
“I’m big!” he replied.
And yes, he is big. And yes, I am trying to enable independence. But I don’t think he’s ready to ride alone in a car with a stranger.
“Maybe you and Daddy can take an Uber ride to New York City one day,” I said.
He seemed somewhat satisfied with that answer, but I knew he was hoping for more. Later, I was googling and found HopSkipDrive, a new ride service for kids that’s staffed by experienced caregivers. It’s only in parts of California and Denver right now, but if it expands it could be a good way to let Max take a joy ride on his own.
I picked Max up at school early evening. I found him sitting at a table in the cafeteria with a few classmates, shoveling pizza into his mouth. I walked up to him and said hi.
“Go away!” he said, smiling.
As we headed toward the front door, Max stopped and ducked into the auditorium. He had remembered to get his backpack, not me.
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