Why I Want People to Keep Staring at My Child With Down Syndrome
The restaurant was buzzing with customers and conversation. Our family of six was tightly packed into a booth made for four, and I was trying my best to keep my kids, Beau and Bitty, happy by making tiny towers out of jelly packs we had found on the table. One, two, three, four … crash. The jelly tower fell over and a roar of laughter erupted at our booth. “Do it again, Mama” Beau insisted. How could I resist? Ten towers, five nursery rhymes and 30 rounds of peek-a-boo later, our waitress finally arrived to take our order.
“Cheese-ba-gurger, smiley fries and ketchup, please,” Beau confidently stated. More laughter and lots of high-fives. We all love the way Beau says “cheeseburger” and, more importantly, we love watching him exercise his independence.
But we’re not the only ones who love watching him.
In this crowded, chaotic moment, I feel the stillness of stares and it makes me smile.
As parents, we’ve all experienced those moments in public when our children’s sub-par behavior becomes the focus of undesired attention. The moments that test us, try us and leave us feeling beyond embarrassed. And then there are the great moments; the moments when our children are at their best, and we wish everyone would stop to notice.
As the parents of two children with Down syndrome, we’ve discovered these moments — the moments when people can’t help but stop and stare — are always happening. The grocery store, park, mall, beach — we feel the stares and learned to embrace them. With each stare, we feel more hopeful the world is learning to value our children, and with that comes an organic realization that we all deserve to be accepted and included.
For us, the stares are an opportunity to educate others by showing them the great potential people with Down syndrome have. And perhaps more importantly, it helps give others a glimpse at the wonderful blessings we call our children.
The waitress delivers Beau’s “cheese-ba-gurger,” and he gives her an enthusiastic “thank you.” Bitty swipes a fry and reminds us all to bow our heads before she takes a bite. I look up and see the couple sitting at the table next to us has ceased their conversation and has become fixated on the action happening at our table. We exchange smiles. Please keep staring at my child.
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The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about a time someone went out of his or her way to make you and/or your child feel included or not included. 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.