It was a demonstration of drumming and the kids, at least 70 of them, were totally into it. The instructors were having fun and were clearly well trained in both drumming and how to control a mob of kids. They taught them a rhythm for stop and another for start. The kids loved understanding the message of the drum, probably tired of voices and instructions and things that felt like school. Ruby and Sadie had a drum and a rhythmic noisemaker which they shared between the two of them.

There were enough for every kid to have something but the drums were the most popular. When they were distributed a young girl with Down Syndrome’s mother helped her carry the drum to a space on the floor. Mom had just got her situated on the drum and returned to sit in a chair when two kids, also girls, who had noisemakers saw her as an easy victim. They headed towards her with the obvious purpose of pushing her off the drum and taking it from her.

When they got there they told her to get of the drum and give it to them. Mother is now alert but she didn’t get up, she just watched intently. The little girl with the drum looked at the two towering over her and said, clearly, loudly and firmly. “No, it’s mine.”

One of the kids reached to take the drum and the girl with Down Syndrome stood up, the drum held in place with her feet. She said, “I said NO!” Several people turned now and saw the confrontation. Mother had risen about half an inch off her chair ready to dash, but she didn’t move.

The standoff was only a microsecond long but it felt longer. The girls who had come over to this ‘easy victim’ backed down. One even said, “Sorry.”

And it was over.

That little girl.

That mother.

That family.

They all understand the importance of the word ‘no’ and ‘mine’. People with disabilities have a right to both those words. NO! MINE! All kids have a right to those words. Parents need to teach and then after teaching, trust their child to fight their own battles and only intervene when necessary.

Mom’s teaching had been needed.

In the moment, she had not been needed.

I salute parents who do the job of getting kids strong enough to use the voice they have and to stand alone and strong when they need to.

When it was all over the little girl with Down Syndrome got to beat the drum she was given, the drum she didn’t let be taken away.

It’s not a minor victory.

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