Recently “Hello Apparel” reached out to me and asked if Grace would like a couple of their shirts in exchange for a picture of her wearing them. They saw her on IG and wanted her to enjoy some of their products. Its been awhile since Grace and I have done this. I generally encourage vendors to check out “Changing the Face of Beauty” and consider joining. I had that conversation with them but I also said yes. I thought, What the heck! I love their bright and cheery shirts and I thought it might be fun to hang out with the camera and my girl. It was funny when we were capturing these images it brought me back to the beginning of Changing the Face of Beauty. Before my friend Steve got involved it was just Grace and I. I spent my evenings reaching out to small Etsy vendors and my days snapping images of my girl in their products. It all began because I loved cute products and I wanted my little world to know that I was not sad my daughter had Down syndrome.
Years have passed now and she has grown. There were quite a few years in-between she would not follow my directions on set. She would throw fits when I gave other children the attention she felt she needed so I stopped including her. It wasn’t her passion. It wasn’t fun for her and I was not going to force her to do something that she didn’t enjoy especially at 4 years old! So we stopped. We stopped agreeing to take products for pictures. We stopped including her in projects in coordination with CTFOB and here we are. She grew up!
As I look at these images, being a proud Mom, I can’t help but see the best in all of us. She has her Grandma Driscolls hair, her Grandma Beetzels eyes, and my mouth. She definitely has my spicy personality but her fathers compassion. She knows what she wants and when she wants it. She understands what it means to have good friends, her favorites are Blake, Ayla, Lainey and Nella. She also knows what it means to be not so nice to the people you care about the most, i.e. her brothers. She knows it is not ok to run from me in a store or throw a toy. She is aware that pinching is not a sign of love and a big ol kiss makes someones day.
There have been many times over the years that well intentioned people have mentioned to me that it is good, Grace will never really know she is different. She won’t understand that she is excluded in society and advertising. The comments take me back but I understand what they are saying. “Maybe she won’t?”, I say to myself. She is the teacher. She is the one who is defining her own future. I honestly wasn’t sure that being in front of the camera was for her and look where we are now. I can tell her to tilt her head, put her hand on her hip and she does it! I can tell her to stop sticking her tongue out at me and she stops. I can tell her to dance on que and she will! Yes, all things that just a year ago were not consistent. She understands when others are not interested in playing with her, and she goes about her own business. She adores her 5 brothers more then life and joins in every hockey game, every pick up basketball game and all skate board races down the driveway. There is no telling her she is too young. She will fight till the end explaining in her own words, “Mom! I want to play!”
So guess the answer to my own questions is yes she will. She will understand when she is not represented. She will understand when she gets rejection after rejection as she tries to find valuable employment. She will understand when she is told she can’t take dance at a school her friend is taking dance at. Just because she has an “intellectual disability” doesn’t mean that she is not aware of what life throws at her.
So with that, I encourage her to dance in front of the camera or get busy on the hockey field. I want her to do what makes her happy. Thats what makes me happy and I will continue to remind myself to never under estimate what she or anyone else is capable of. The sky is the limit. It really is.
I am learning and growing right along with her. Thank goodness I have a great teacher!
TGIF friends! OX Katie