A Broken Gift

Disclaimer: I understand that all kids (and people, for that matter) dabble in rebellion and don’t always want to abide by the rules. That is not the point I am making here. Marie is 13 and has down syndrome. She is 13 and can’t (or won’t) follow simple instructions. Please don’t comment comparing her to all the other kids out there who are “normal.”

When you walk into my house, our computer desk is one of the first eye sores in the room. Like any used work space it quickly becomes cluttered with mismatched items who don’t seem to have a home of their own. Every once in a while I spend time de-cluttering and organizing piles of crap. This time I came across one of Marie’s Christmas gifts.


Photo from Melissa & Doug website

It’s called a Butterfly Peel and Press Sticker By Numbers by Melissa & Doug so it doesn’t come all bedazzled like the picture above. It’s up to you to follow the directions and make this happen. I had some reservations about getting this for her.

Could she handle the intricacy? Would she be able to follow directions? Will this just end up being another disappointment in the trash?

Not sure. No. Yes.

After Christmas I kept a handful of gifts out of Marie’s reach to work on together over time. This was one of those projects. Mr. Sexy didn’t know I was saving this and gave it to her with some simple instructions. What I found later was half of the stickers stuck haphazardly all over the picture and frame. There was no rhyme or reason to the placement. My first reaction was anger and I confronted Mr. Sexy about it without knowing anything about the circumstances. He then shared he was upset with her as well because she was not supposed to have done that. She blatantly heard what he said then did whatever she wanted.Β I put the project on the desk shelf with plans to “fix it” when I wasn’t feeling so furious.

Weeks went by and the project remained untouched, almost hidden – until I started to declutter our crap. I decided to “let it go” and sat down to peel off the stickers and replace them on the sticker sheets. I peeled off one silver square. It was easy enough. Then another one. This one was more difficult and I ended up bending the sticker a bit. These weren’t your normal stickers. It was almost like a bedazzle type gem that was sticky on the one side. After a few more I realized that each sticker would be that much less sticky and they weren’t coming off all that well.

This sent me back to my fury.

I spent a lot of time searching for gifts for Marie. Gifts that would be fun and meaningful. Gifts she could enjoy. Gifts WE could enjoy. I had high hopes for this butterfly frame. But Marie’s complete disregard for simple instruction ruined it for her and for me. Well, let’s be honest. It was probably more ruined for me.

In my anger I confronted her with the gift. She remembered it. She remembered what she did. As I started to forcefully tell her how mad I was – still – I could feel hot tears behind my words. What came out next was a rush of hurt feelings and I began to cry. She, on the other hand, seemed to smile.

“Why are you smiling?! Do you see that I’m hurt by what you did?!”

I threw the mess down in front of her and yelled at her to throw it all in the garbage. Then I went into the other room and sobbed.

Marie didn’t just throw away a gift. She threw away a chance for her and I to have a bonding moment. I suppose, without realizing, that’s what this gift(s) meant to me. I was searching for ways that she and I could make something beautiful together and enjoy the process. Instead the opposite happened.

Our relationship feels as broken as it has ever been.


4 thoughts on “A Broken Gift

  1. I can imagine that this was very frustrating and disappointing for you – the loss of an opportunity to work on a project with her and work on those bonding opportunities that you’re trying to create with her.

    Now, I don’t have a child who has Down Syndrome, but I do have one who doesn’t like to be creative “inside the box.” Given one of these activities, she will put the stickers on wherever SHE thinks they need to go rather than following the instructions. I’m finding that isn’t always a bad thing. She gets to explore her own creativity. Is it possible that you and Marie could find a creative project to work on together that doesn’t have a set of rules, allowing her to explore her own creativity and providing you with a bonding activity that won’t cause you frustration if it doesn’t turn out like the instructions?


    • It’s not an issue of creativity – which she has very little of when left to her own devices. It’s a matter of doing what she is told even if it’s as simple as “go get a fork and napkin.” It’s a special needs thing.


  2. Sorry to hear. I was furious on Monday because I felt like Abi had done the same thing: take something that I had meant to be bonding and trample all over it with her weird needy anxiety choices. I’m so with you on the feelings of anger and disappointment and hopeless “where in the heck do we go now?” feelings. I don’t have any advice because I’m not sure how we are going to wade through this mess either. I’m just hoping God can make something beautiful out of all the brokenness.


  3. Oh I am so sorry for this missed opportunity. I can feel your disappointment, and it must be even more frustrating to think that she doesn’t get your disappointment on this missed chance. Hopefully there will be other chances that don’t slip by in such a manner. but for now, it’s just a set back — you’ve been working really hard and it is bound to pay off eventually. maybe not quite in the way you might expect, but in some manner to be sure.


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