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I Cried After Taking My Daughter With Down Syndrome to the Dance

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If you can be anything, be kind.

Last night was the homecoming dance, and my daughter Courtney had so much fun getting fancy. A cute dress, pretty hair and her sister putting just a touch of makeup on her. She looked in the mirror and said, “I look like an angel. I look pretty.” And she did.

So off to the dance we went. Courtney and I walked into the school and waited in line to pay her $5 admission. She was nervous but so excited. 

I wish I could tell you that the moment she walked in the crowd parted and she was greeted with high-fives, fist bumps, hugs, hellos and kids asking her to dance.

Instead, Courtney was at her first homecoming dance standing off to the side looking at her feet.

Not one person said hello, not one person asked her to dance, not one person acknowledged her except for a girl who smiled at her.

This lasted about five minutes, then Courtney and I danced our way onto the floor. We danced to every song for about an hour. We got low with Usher, sang “Wrecking Ball” way too loud, slow danced to “God Gave Me You,” did the Cha-Cha Slide and more.

We had the best time.

Courtney’s knee was hurting a bit so she said she was ready to go. On our walk to the car I asked how she liked the dance. Her response: ”It was the funnest night, and I’m a good dancer, Mom.” I told Courtney how much fun I had and that I was so excited to get to go with her.

After Courtney went to bed, I sat outside on the back step and cried. I cried because I wanted just one person to be kind and say hello to her. I cried because I wanted just one person to be kind and ask her to dance. I cried because I didn’t want her to have to dance with her 40-year-old mom. I cried because I love her and wanted this night to be so amazing for her.

Then while replaying the dance in my mind, I thought about Courtney singing “Wrecking Ball,” how she loved it when I twirled her and how she laughed every time she tried to twirl me. I remembered how I totally screwed up on the Cha-Cha Slide and she said, “Mom you not doing it right.” I thought about how she would hug me during the slow songs and try to imitate the couples around us. I thought about how on every pop song she would say, “This is my jam.” My sadness turned into joy.

I will choose to remember the homecoming dance the exact way Courtney will: a fancy dress and a fun night of dancing.

My hope is that after reading this, you will take time to talk with your children about kindness to others. Every single person, including Courtney, is worthy of your smile and a moment of your time to say hello.

Shawn Sullentrup.3-001

Originally published: October 27, 2015
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