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I Missed World Down Syndrome Day Thanks to Parenting

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I am a father to a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome. Perhaps I should have taken time on World Down Syndrome Day to get out there and advocate for my child, raise awareness and make my voice heard. Except I’m writing this after World Down Syndrome Day — which was on March 21st — because much like many other parents of young children would know, things don’t always go according to plan.

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day because the numbers associated with the date (3/21) refer to the 3 copies of the 21st chromosome, which is Trisomy 21 and otherwise known as Down syndrome. March 21st is a day when people with Down syndrome and those who are a part of their lives attempt to raise public awareness and advocate for inclusion — as well as take part in various events and activities throughout the world.

One thing you might have heard is that people with Down syndrome are “more alike than different” from anyone considered “typical.” My daughter loves to make you laugh, loves music, loves to sing and dance. She loves to color, to play dress up and loves to pretend. Much like any other typical kid, she can also get fussy, get upset and want to get her way whenever she can. She is a child and has the same traits and behaviors as any other child. We may go on a few more doctor’s visits during any given year, and her time-table for certain milestones may be a little different from other kids.

Something I seldom see posted about is what I refer to as “parenting awareness.” Ever since we first received the prenatal diagnosis our second daughter would be born with Down syndrome we encountered a variety of reactions: those who offered condolences or pity and those who didn’t think it was a big deal. As someone who has been a father to a typical daughter for 6 years, and a girl with Down syndrome for 4 years, I can say in my experience it has not been a big deal.

Yes, my youngest has faced challenges and will continue to do so throughout her life. As her father it’s my job to help raise her, protect her and prepare her the best I can for her future. But that is no different than what I do for my oldest daughter. People may think a parent of a child with Down syndrome is unhappy or struggling, and I consider this a misconception. The struggles I face are very much the same as anyone trying to raise two young kids. They both want things, both want your attention, both get upset for seemingly no reason. I believe it all comes with the territory of parenting, whether the child has a disability or not.

Dad posing with daughter with Down syndrome while she makes a silly face at the camera

Am I exhausted often? Of course I am. I have two girls with a lot of energy and I have troubles keeping up with both of them.

Do I worry about my children and their future? Of course I do. I am their father and I love them with all of my heart and want the best for them.

Am I unhappy? Not in the slightest. If you see me around and there isn’t a smile on my face, I may be thinking about the countless things I need to do or get done for the day/week/month.

Does any of this sound familiar? Sound like something you can relate to? Maybe my flavor is a little bit different than yours, but it’s all part of parenting. Much like the saying that people with Down syndrome are “more alike than different” from those considered “typical,” the same has been true in my parenting experience. I’m very much like you, I love my kids and they can be exhausting at times. But being their father is the most amazing and rewarding experience. I would have loved to write this for World Down Syndrome Day to help raise awareness, but I didn’t get the chance because I was a bit too busy with parenting.

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Originally published: March 26, 2017
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