The Child People Think I Don't Want
I have a child with Down syndrome. And that can be really hard at times. But not for the reasons you may think.
It’s not really hard because of the Down syndrome. Don’t get me wrong. The therapies, extra attention to nutrition and development, endless research and unavoidable delays are far from easy. And I would take away his challenges if I had the power. In that I doubt I’m much different from a parent of a child with diabetes, dyslexia, ADHD or a learning disability. None of us want to see our child endure hardship. Still, the extra work for both my son and myself is not what’s really hard.
What’s really hard is he’s the child many people don’t want. He’s the child people pray they don’t have. The child people do in utero testing to make sure isn’t there. The child a high percentage of people choose to abort. The child many people assume I wish I didn’t have.
Why? Because people don’t always view him like a real child. People don’t always view him as a blessing, a treasure, a gift. Many people don’t even view him like they do a child with some other set of challenges. I mean, no one would look at a child with a learning disability and say, “Did you know he was going to have this? And you still chose to have him?”
No, people often view Down syndrome as a tragedy. A tragedy to be avoided at all costs. A tragedy that strikes the unfortunate. A tragedy wrought with disappointment and pain. A tragedy to be pitied and lamented. And that, folks, is what’s really hard.
Because people are wrong.
The challenges of Down syndrome stink in many ways, yes. But, fortunately, I know Down syndrome is far from a tragedy. And though I may wish my son didn’t have extra challenges, I would never wish to not have my son. You see, contrary to popular understanding, Down syndrome doesn’t strip my child of, well, being a child.
My son just turned 2. He walks, talks, plays. My son learns… from animals to animal sounds to body parts to shapes, colors, and objects. My child loves… from books to puzzles to cars to ladybugs, gorillas, his daddy, his brother, his sister. And oh how painful the separation when his mama would leave him. My child communicates his likes, dislikes, wants and needs. He yells “all done” when full, “water” when thirsty, “more” when wanted, “up” when needed, “daddy” when someone special walks through the door, “hi” to friends, and “bye bye” when leaving. He goes down the slide with a “ready, set, go!” He insists on “spaghetti!” almost every evening. He gets grumpy when tired. He gets mad when forced to stomach supplements. He whines when someone else is in the swing. He wiggles for freedom when he wants to explore.
You see, my son is a child. So, sure, go ahead and wish with me that he wouldn’t face the extra challenges. But please, don’t wish for me that he never was. Don’t feel bad for me that he is mine. Don’t question my decision to “keep” him. Don’t applaud me for “keeping” a “less than” baby. Because you doing that is what makes this really hard.
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