Does anyone remember the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer lands a corporate job, sort of? He fits in beautifully, enjoying laughs and camaraderie with his fellow employees, proudly carries a briefcase, attends high-power business meetings.
There’s only one catch: Kramer isn’t doing actual work. He’s a well-liked addition to the scenery, and even looks the part, but that’s the extent of his accomplishments. Eventually, he is asked to leave by an executive who can’t figure out why he’s there.
My worst-case scenario for my daughter is what I remember from that Seinfeld episode years ago. Ellen is charming, pretty, smart, and extremely verbal in English and sometimes German when she wants to be. So far, most of her classmates and teachers, fellow Girl Scouts and leaders embrace her, although, to be honest, some adults and children keep a distance.
When we enrolled Ellen as a three-year-old in a public school in Iowa, her teacher, teacher’s assistant and the school’s principal spent a fair amount of time one-on-one with Ellen, perhaps even giving her a little more attention than they did the other students. They said they saw great potential, and they pushed her to learn, to hold her own amongst her age peers. Her word recognition took off as did many of her gross- and fine-motor skills. One of the main reasons we would have stayed in Iowa was the school Ellen attended. One of Ellen’s doctors in Iowa, considered a leader in the nation in working with children with trisomy 21, said she thought Ellen might be her first patient who would receive a real college degree.
We weighed all the advantages and disadvantages of moving. Hawaii is paradise, the most magical place I have ever seen. To actually wake up in the morning and know I’m in Hawaii is a dream come true. But Hawaii is also a place like no other in the United States. The Three of Us (the name of our team — our family) hit the ground running. Halfway into our first year, Ben had a stroke, soon followed by my mother. A few months later, my father and Ben’s stepmother died.
For Ellen, it was a year of great change, and Ellen Bear held her own. When she turned five, Ellen attended the public school in our neighborhood, considered one of the finest on the island.
On my second day in Hawaii I spoke to the counselor at that school. I could tell in two minutes that he understood my daughter. A few months later, after my husband and daughter arrived, that was confirmed after he and Ellen met in person. We had to wait for a year before Ellen could attend kindergarten with her age peers. She had some catching up to do in a few areas, but thanks to her teacher and many others at the school who became part of Team Ellen, she made a lot of progress.
That has continued this year with a first grade teacher who recognizes Ellen’s gifts. We meet next week with this teacher who challenges and rewards Ellen and all her students. For her, learning is discipline and joy at the same time. Ellen is also working with an expert tutor we found this past summer. Both, without trying to say the right words to Ben and me, believe Ellen has every chance to some day receive a genuine college degree.
So maybe our daughter will be the real deal—unlike Kramer in that Seinfeld episode which made me laugh, but years later haunts me, albeit less and less.