The Adopt a Family Program

When Mark was little, every outing we took was a challenge. Sometimes, even between the three of us, Mark would manage to get away from us. He was an adorable streak of lightning with loud, garbled acclamations wherever he went.

We understood this to be part of Mark’s curiosity about everything around him, but the rules for safety were not being followed. At first we panicked and would frantically search and holler his name. This became our family joke: “the Millers are here, the Millers are here!” It was always hard to miss us due to the fuss and noise of us.

More often than not we would find Mark smiling in the arms of a community member. He had a favorite type of woman at that! Mark had learned to appreciate big women from his Richard Simmons exercise video, so we learned his system for choosing whom to sit with at church. He always started out sitting with us, but as the service progressed, he would wriggle out into the center aisle, and scout for a new family to sit with.

After church, we had to locate him in the crowd as he shook hands and visited the parishioners; received many a wink and “knowing smile” from them, and then we would all go home as one happy family.

Vacations were always fun, but again, modifications were required. Camping with Mark was a work out because he wanted to meet everyone in the camp- and stay to visit and have a meal with them. We rotated social duties as to who would take shifts of following Mark to the various campsites. We met some fantastic people who, unfortunately, encouraged this behavior in Mark. What else could they do? He was irresistible!

For our part, we didn’t want others to think we were just letting him run amuck unattended. The real challenge was at night. Once in the tent, Mark would get a second wind. He would try to get out of the tent to “go visit, hike or swim, etc.” I would not be able to sleep for fear he would get out of the tent and get lost or worse. After a few sleep deprived camping trips, I learned to bring a simple solution.

Once we were in the tent, I would safety pin the zipper, so it could not be opened. Mark had not mastered opening safety pins, let alone in the dark! Consequently, we laughed ourselves to sleep as Mark tried to find a way out of the tent. He was smart enough to know he got in there from somewhere, and that tents might be another raisin test (This piece is coming soon). He didn’t give up easily when the night diversions called to him, but finally, he would fuss around getting in and out of his sleeping bag, and once I pinned him in there too.

Taking a road trip from California to Yellowstone National Park was something we had always wanted to do. It was a daunting idea for us because no matter where we went we pictured us running all over the place looking for a lost child. Comfort comes in strange ways! As soon as we had set up camp in Yellowstone, Mark went “visiting.” He met the folks directly across a little road from our campsite.

It was a couple and their two teenagers and they shared a snack with him. By nightfall we had met them and were reassured they were nice people and they assured us it made them happy to have Mark around. He ate dinner with them, but he had to sleep in our tent so I could pin him in for safety. For the next few days, Mark spent so much time at the next camp; we were missing him very much. The family insisted in letting him move in with them.

He even dragged his “stuff” over there. Each evening all of us would go to the nature presentation as if we had known each other for years, but Mark sat with his new friends. That was Mark’s longest Adopt a Family stint and it left us realizing how much he savored his independence from our intense involvement in his every move.

Read another one about a unique toddle movement called the Jib-Skid, click here

About Carmella Miller

I live in Nevada City, CA with my husband Steve. I am a retired 7th and 8th grade English, Art and Drama teacher. I thought it would be fun to share the"Markie Stories" featuring our son Mark Miller, age 24. When a parent hears they have a special needs child, grieving and isolation often follow. Maybe because we finally "got" Mark raised up, that, now we see how funny it was at times. And we definitely know how how proud we are of him and ourselves.
This entry was posted in Down Syndrome Help, Out In the Town, Raising Down syndrome Boy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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