“Mom. Mat Man?”
Lately, before we begin our bedtime routine, Nichole holds a box of wooden pieces and foam shapes. She is ready for quality time with mom. She is ready for Mat Man.
We sit on the living room floor and I start singing the song. I am a terrible singer. She doesn’t care.
Mat man has one head, one head, one head. Mat man has one heaaaaaaad! So that he can think!
I hold two of the big curves by my head, making a circle. Nichole laughs at me, “You funny!” She reaches out and imitates me. Then she carefully, oh so carefully places them on the carpet.
We make Mat Man.
“Again?” she asks.
Then she asks to make letters. Finally, with the wooden pieces we spell, “Nichole.” She points at each letter and says its name. She knows every letter of the alphabet, but her favorite letters are the ones in her name. N. I. C. H. O. L. E.
My daughter is five years old, and she has Down syndrome. She struggles with her speech, and we are not sure where she is at yet in her intellectual abilities since she has a hard time with her words. This is a learning time, but there is also a heart connection taking place as I find myself overwhelmed with love for this little girl and so incredibly proud of her progress.
And then I think about myself, the many disabilities I have: selfishness, self-reliance, greed, jealousy, lack of self-control, etc. Yet sometimes I begin to get it, a little at a time. As if I was sitting on the living room floor with God, practicing my trust in Him in little things. And I know He smiles at me overwhelmed with love too, so proud of me for those small accomplishments and the ways in which I make progress in the deep places of my heart.
Ellen Stumbo is a writer and speaker. She is the mother of three daughters: Ellie; Nichole, who has Down syndrome; and Nina, who was adopted and also has special needs. She is wife to Andy, a pastor.