How Do I Prepare for the Day Someone Insults My Child With Down Syndrome?

It’s coming.

I’ve read enough and heard enough to know that it’s definitely coming.

It’s been 21 months since my daughter, Willow, was born. You’d think I’d have something prepared by now. A response ready in my pocket. A facial expression reserved only for that moment. A gesture, cocked and loaded. I don’t have any of those. But, then again, how do you prepare for the day someone makes fun of your daughter, or worse yet, questions the value of her life?

The day Willow was born, she received her first label: Trisomy 21 (a form of Down syndrome). It’s a label we weren’t prepared for but fully accepted. Since that day the list of labels has grown to “special,” “adorable,” “high risk” and “failure to thrive.” I can’t argue with any of them. They’re all true or were true at one point in time. Heart surgery took care of the whole “failure to thrive” thing. The “special” and “adorable” labels are sure to stick around. Just look at this girl!

young girl pushes toddler on a swing

Seriously. Look at her. Isn’t she amazing?

I believe Willow is a gift from God. A hand-crafted gift, mind you. I believe He knew what He was doing when He snuck that extra chromosome in her. He gave her more. Why do some in this world see less?

It breaks my heart to think of some of the labels people have for someone like Willow. They see her as some sort of joke or burden. Let me tell you, those are two labels I may not be prepared for, but I’ll never let them stick. And don’t even think about using the r-word on my baby. I … well, I don’t really know I would react to that word, but, believe me, that’s one label I’m aiming to destroy.

In a society that preaches acceptance and equality, it’s hard to believe that this kind of ignorance and hate still exists. But it does. And I know I’m bound to run into it. When I do, I pray I’m ready, that I can stand up for my daughter, my beautiful daughter. At the same time, I don’t want to stoop to the level of the person saying the offensive comments. I pray that I don’t throw a punch. I pray that I don’t break down and cry. I pray that I don’t freeze. God, please, please don’t let me freeze. Willow is counting on me.

Because someday, she’ll need to be the one who’s ready. And I want my girl to not only change minds but also the world.

mom kisses her daughter's cheek

A version of this post originally appeared on The Mighty Willow.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one commonly held opinion within the community surrounding your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) that doesn’t resonate with you? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

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