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My Son With Down Syndrome Inspires Me to Be a Better Mother

You know you’ve got a time management problem when you have three toothbrushes dotted around the house because when that five-minute window opens, you want to be ready, baby.

You tug on mismatched socks because your dryer is a power eater and the actual pairs are all buried somewhere in those overflowing laundry baskets teetering in the corner. “It’s not dirty enough not to wear” becomes your mantra. You don’t remember the last day you haven’t heard the washing machine running. At least it’s productive white noise.

And so you live. And you grow. And you thrive. And you teach.

And you mother.

Your kid has extra needs, and you fulfill them unflinchingly. It is mostly unnoticeable because you just do what you need to do. And you put yourself first only when you are falling. And you rarely fall because that very same kid lifts you and lifts you and lifts you. And he inspires you because that journey can be more difficult than it is for a typical kid. He inspires you because you can see him thinking and watch him when he’s pissed off that he’s failed at something. And then he goes back and frowns and grinds his teeth and tries again and again and again ’til he gets it right. And he always gets it right eventually.

He is so driven compared to other people, and so by all that is good and holy, he inspires you.

You know you own an iron but haven’t got a clue where it is. Truth be told, if you found it, you may think it better put to use as a door stop. Some part of you is always decorated with food anyway.

Every time you go clothes shopping, you end up with four new developmental toys for your son… and another toothbrush. Plus a few for him. Just because. Some of your clothes were bought in the ’90s.

You go out for a run to clear your head and find yourself practicing Makaton to your playlist. Even though it gets a bit weird when AC/DC comes on, this still makes you realize how much sign language you can pick up from television. And now you want to get home and practice with him. Maybe without the innuendo-laden hard rock, but still.

Because you live and you grow and you thrive when you mother. As you teach him, he teaches you. The love and the discipline, that greatest yin and yang of all, the give and take of this unwavering bond.

The fridge is packed with food for Captain Picky Eater, yet you and your husband are on your third takeaway of the week. “We’re out of Weetabix” becomes close to a national emergency. You have bananas in the house but dare not eat one, lest he run out. Same goes for yogurt. The thought that you should shop for yourself as well hasn’t crossed your mind in a few months. It usually only does become a thought a couple days before payday when you’re eyeing the ramen noodles at the back of the drawer because the takeaway funds have dried up.

You resolve on New Year’s Day that this year, I’ll get enough sleep. I’ll put him to bed and switch off the laptop and rest and rest and rest. But on day one, zero hour, you reach the bottom of the stairs and forget. And you Google, and you blog, and you read, and you shop. Then it’s 3 a.m. Then you hear him stir on the monitor and you stop everything to be sure he doesn’t require you. If he did, you’d leave everything cold and go sleep beside him until he dropped off again. Sometimes the stirring means a nappy change is in order. And you rush up to sort him out ASAP to ensure he can get a decent sleep. So you can get a decent sleep. And thank God he usually does sleep.

He is your world.

You are his mother.

You take care of yourself just enough to ensure you can help him soar. You lean on your spouse, your friends, your family for support when you need to switch off, but the fact remains — he is your world.

You wouldn’t trade him for anything. The only trade in is time for you, which you put aside because, frankly, he is entirely worth it. That he is a joy to be around is merely a bonus prize. Except when he is Captain Crabbo. Then you want him to go to sleep and leave your ears in peace for a while. And then you only go and miss him, Crabbo or not. You check on him in the night and you linger. Just to watch him sleeping, you linger. Even when you can at long last go to sleep…

You linger.

You look after yourself by measuring his progress today, since yesterday, and know you are doing a good job. This grows you.

You look after yourself by capturing joyful moments and knowing you are raising a happy boy. Your favorite pastime (aside from actually finding time to brush your teeth) is watching him think. You soar when he succeeds at anything those long-ago doctors told you, “He won’t…” Yes he bloody will. This grows you.

You look after yourself by marching with him to “The Grand Old Duke of York,” and “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and the intro to “Gigglebiz”… hell, you march to the food chopper and the vacuum in this house. Anything and everything that makes him smile. You march for minutes, then hours, ’til your calves cramp and your feet ache and you can’t kick once more or your leg will actually fly off. He watches himself in the mirror marching, and you grin at him, “Good boy, look at you go!” and he grins back and launches those knees virtually to the ceiling, and you wish you had champagne to celebrate.

Alas, you grow tired of marching and sit. He complains.

You get up and march. Because.

The grand victory hidden in the minutiae. The leap masked in the small step. These all massage your mind. These all smooth the worry from your forehead. As he grows, so too do you.

He is your world. You are his mother.

Maxine's son at a water park
Maxine’s son at a water park

Follow this journey on Down In Front, Please.

Have you seen the first film with a national release to star a person with Down syndrome? Check out the film “Where Hope Grows” today!

Available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.