Monday afternoon Ricki has an exercise class with several other teens and young adults with Down syndrome. She has been attending this club for years, and it is the highlight of her week. [I originally enrolled her in this club so that she would be exposed to other girls with Down syndrome, in the anticipation that someday she might need to leave her inclusive school setting.]
Since I have my ceramics class on Monday mornings, this makes Monday a rather hectic day for me. I barely return from my morning class, prepare lunch, and have a nap, and it is time to leave for the exercise session.
Yesterday, I was all ready to go, and Ricki headed out the door ahead of me. “I’ll wait downstairs…” I gathered my bottle of water, and the knitting I was planning to progress a bit with while Ricki was exercising, and started fishing in my purse for the keys to lock the front door.
But they weren’t there. After a few moments of half-hearted groping, I sat down and emptied all the compartments of my purse.
Still no keys.
I checked the table, my bedside table, and the kitchen counter. I KNEW that they were in the house, as I had used them to unlock the door on my return from ceramics (and a side trip to the vegetable store) at noon.
I went to the window, and called my daughter: “Ricki, did you take my keys?”
-“No, I don’t have them….”
I repeated the entire search, realizing that we were missing the bus that takes us to the class (which is in a neighboring suburb). Finally, I had the magical brainstorm, and went to check Ricki’s school bag. Sure enough, I found the key chain in a side pouch of the bag.
Leaving the keys in the bag, I called outside: “Ricki, come upstairs we can’t go to class today!”
Ricki came trodding up the stairs, protesting vocally, “Why can’t we go to the club today???”
“I’m very sorry, but I can’t find my keys, and we can’t leave without locking the front door.”
“The keys? OMG, I know where the keys are!”, and she quickly fished them out of their hiding place.
Now I was gratified that hopefully Ricki had learned something, but the lesson was far from over. Usually if we are running late for her class, it is my fault, and I will take a taxi to get there in time. And occasionally, if we are really late, I will skip the class altogether. And I was sorely tempted to just drop the extra excursion, and get some housework done instead. But I felt that it was important for Ricki to feel the consequences of her actions in a way that was a bit stronger. If I simply cancelled going, she would see that decision as a punishment that I had imposed (ie., MY fault), and not that being late for the session was a result of her own actions.
“Do you have money for a cab?” I queried.
-So then we will just have to go by bus, because we are late because YOU took the keys, and I am not paying for a taxi. We will be late….”
-“Oh, no, we will arrive on time”, asserted Ricki, not yet really comprehending everything.
In short, we waited a long time for the bus, and we did arrive late. And I hope that the lesson of consequences sank in a little bit……