She doesn't drink, smoke, do drugs, answer back or hang around on street corners with her pals. But Smiley is a teenager. So I was a bit gobsmacked to overhear the following exchange in Penneys yesterday:
Small boy looking puzzled: "Mammy, who's in that buggy?"
Mammy: "Well, there's small babies and big babies, and that's a big baby."
I was completely speechless, and just glared at her. I guess that was a bit unfair as she probably did not know what to say to her son. Often small children - especially girls - will wander over to Smiley and ask about her. I tell them that she was born too soon and hasn't learned to walk or talk yet. "Will she ever?" they usually ask. "I don't know, I hope so," I usually reply.
Part of the problem is her (adult-sized) buggy. Most 13 year olds are in wheelchairs, but for us that would mean staying indoors whenever it is wet or cold - as in about 11 months of a typical Irish year. If we only got out on sunny days, you'd have to cart us all off to the funny farm. I found Smiley's wonderful "Bug" buggy on the net and it has everything: playtray, rainhood, footmuff and shopping net - it's fabulous, but confuses onlookers who just see a very large (baby's?) buggy.
Since I was in town to buy Smiley a spring coat, I decided she needed a new look: one that says teenager, not tot. So we did the rounds of the clothes shops and I discovered that she now likes trying clothes on - not so different really from any other teen really:
We ended up totally on-trend with a couple of over-sized hoodies, and leggings in black and denim. So what now - how do you provide a typical teenage experience for a girl with severe physical and intellectual disabilities? Should I consider a little eye-brow reshaping, perhaps a dusting of mascara? And when the transformation is complete, should she be going to discos, perhaps for teens with special needs? It's yet another problem to consider, but I've no answers at the moment.