Grace for Rett » Grace's Life with Rett Syndrome

The Age of Reason

Tomorrow, Grace turns seven.

Seven seems like a really cool number to me. Seven days in the creation story. Seven deadly sins. Seventh Heaven. Seven seas. Seven continents. Seven colours in the rainbow. Seven days in the week. Seven dwarfs. Some people are actually named “Seven” (and I, for one, am hella jealous of people with quirky names).

Seven years ago I popped Grace out of my tummy. (Jack came out within seven hours, but Grace came out in two, making her my most convenient childbirth). And I guess while we’re on the subject, worth mentioning that Elijah took twelve lovely hours ripping me apart from the inside.

…but I digress…

Seven is a magical age. It’s known as the “age of reason”. In developmental psychology, this is explained as the age at which children are suddenly capable of carrying on complex conversations. They become more adept at identifying and expressing their emotions and so on and so forth.

Elijah entered this state as soon as he could talk. His first phrase at the age of two: “you’re not in my family!” (when Nanny wouldn’t give him candy) Also at age two the declaration “I’m FRUSTURAAAAAATED!” (connected with his emotions and able to express them). Age three, whispering to himself, “this is my life” when I forced him to hold my hand. Age four asking, “Mom, can we talk about car insurance?”

I didn’t know the meaning of this magical age until Jack turned seven and almost overnight, he became connected to the world around him. He started contemplating life, death, love. Asking questions. And answering questions with real, actual thoughts of his own. The unfurling of a new mind before my very eyes.

Tomorrow, Grace enters this age and my heart is apprehensive to be happy.

When I was a figure in the Rett charity world, I had to tow the party line that our girls are not cognitively impaired (aka “mentally retarded”). I don’t regret it. I believed it. But now I don’t know what I think. Well…I mean…I don’t know what to feel. I have ferociously fought in the corner of competence. That these girls and women are every bit as mentally advanced, adept and…well…brilliant as anyone else their ages. “If not moreso” I preached. And I have all the evidence I need to believe this. I have seen videos of girls and women using eye gaze computers. Hell, I’m friends on Facebook with Jo, a teenager with Rett who is every bit the teenager you’d expect. She’s got a great sense of humour. She’s the kind of bold I was at her age and I’d like to think we’d be friends in real life. So I have a big fat chasm…a dissonance between what I know, what I believe and what I will allow my heart to embrace.

Because…

At the end of the day, if Grace is 100% as mentally competent and advanced as every other child the day before they turn seven, then I don’t know if I can be happy about this birthday. Because what could be worse than coming alive to the complexities of this life and not being able to talk about them? Test them out. Ask questions. Answer questions.

I might be shit at a lot of things (like making school lunches or remembering birthdays or keeping up with friends) but one thing I’m not bad at is raising smart people. My boys are independent, brilliant, driven, entrepreneurial, bold, confident kids who are allowed to mess up, believe what they choose to believe, play with different ideals, test waters and make important choices. So I know that if Grace could talk…if she could express the complexities of her mind, she would be even more the shining star in this world than she already is.

Darren LeRoy Halford - November 24, 2015 - 5:05 pm

Thought provoking stuff.

Stephen Potter - November 24, 2015 - 8:42 pm

Good stuff!

Peter Bangs - November 25, 2015 - 4:40 pm

That’s potentially the saddest happy thing I’ve read in a very long time. I’ve only met Grace two or three short times but I know she’s a lovely girl blessed with two parents who will do everything they can to make sure she had all the best opportunities. If she could talk she would bear testament to everything you’ve invested in her life just as your boys are a testament.

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