Alethea Mshar, a mom of three, recently had a gut-wrenching conversation with her 15-year-old son, Alex, after getting his birthday list. In an emotional Facebook post, she said that like most teens, Alex was pining for a car for his 16th birthday, but there was one problem: people with Down syndrome typically can't drive.
"I asked Alex for a birthday list for his upcoming 16th birthday. My boy wants a car," she wrote. "He knows people can drive when they turn 16, he knows his sister can drive and he wants to, too."
Although Alethea has gently told Alex that a learner's permit isn't likely in his future, she still feels guilty he'll never get to experience the long-awaited teenage ritual of the driver's test.
"And it's enough to break a mama's heart. I can only imagine how his feels."
"On a certain level he gets that it won't happen," she said. "We've had this conversation many times over the years. He understands that he has Down syndrome and that most people with Down syndrome don't drive, but he cannot grasp why other people can drive and he can't. We try to explain things like the rules and the tests, but the simple fact is that he is not able [to drive] and never will be."
She continued: "In some ways, it's the not understanding that is so telling. He lacks discernment. He doesn't get the nuances. Like a young child, he doesn't get that driving is more complex than putting your foot on pedals to go and stop and wiggling the steering wheel with your hands," she said, adding that, "We talk about the potential of self-driving cars for him some day. It's still a long way off. We'll see."
Even though Alex realizes that his dream of hitting the open road is unlikely, his mom said there's still a level of mourning that her son experiences.
"He recognizes the loss. He gets that there's this huge rite of passage that he won't be participating in and he knows he's missing out. As his mom, my heart can hardly bear trying to explain it to him. How do you help your son understand that there are things he'll never be able to do without him feeling inherently different? He gets it and he doesn't. And it's enough to break a mama's heart. I can only imagine how his feels."