The Mighty Logo

Why My Son With Down Syndrome Is Like a Raisin Rum Cake

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

It was a gorgeous sunny day as five of my friends and I sat outside laughing and enjoying lunch. We were passionately discussing what desserts to share, how many we should order, and what delicious flavors to choose.

Suddenly, my phone vibrated on the table. I looked at the screen with dread, and then fear. It was my son’s school. My heart leaped into my throat. My stomach dropped. Was he safe? I took a deep breath and said “Hello?”

Before I could even say, “Is everything OK?” my son’s teacher launched into, “Today has been just a horrible day. He keeps putting his head down. He is refusing to do what we want. You need to come get him immediately.”

As I listened, the teacher explained in a loud irritated voice, how naughty my son had been and how he “just refuses” to listen.

She continued on, saying how he was told specifically to first do this, but not that — but he did it anyway. Then she launched into explaining how he sunk down into his seat, slid down to the floor and wouldn’t get up when he was told to.

I held the phone away from my ear and took a breath. My eyes welled with tears.

This was so hard to hear. Not just for me, but knowing what a hard day my son was having. It is devastating for a mom and pure anguish to hear.

Heartbreakingly, this was the third exact same phone call in the past two weeks.

As I put my ear back to the phone, I realized she was still talking, and hadn’t even realized I wasn’t listening.

My friends were watching me with big eyes trying to read my expression.

At that moment, the waiter came over and laid the three desserts down in front of us. One was a chocolate fudge cake, another was lemon cream pie. The third dessert though stood out, as it was a raisin rum cake. Who had ordered that? I don’t like rum cake? Did anyone else like rum cake? Was this a mistake? It was such an oddity compared to the other two popular, generic desserts.

It struck me that my son was just like the raisin rum cake.

My son is a special kind of dessert that not everybody likes, and that not everybody would pick. And yet in his own perfectly imperfect way, he is completely yummy, completely amazing, and one yumminess that I would continue to pick every day of the week!

And yet how can something so perfect, so amazing not be loved by everyone?

See, not all teachers understand my son. Not all teachers want to understand my son. Teachers can be worried when students are different. Teachers can be afraid of failing a child. Not all teachers appreciate my son or see his hidden talents. Not all teachers know to look through the layers for his strengths and hidden gifts.

He can be very cranky. He can be very stubborn. He has mastered the plop and drop like nobody’s business.

Yet he can also be wonderfully sweet and cuddly. He can be kind, and very thoughtful.
He loves to help others and loves to feel wanted and successful. He absolutely swells with pride when he completes a challenging task. He can also be convinced to do hard things when people believe in him and encourage him.

He wants nothing more in life than to belong, feel successful, to love and be loved in return.

Don’t we all?

I motioned to my friends to go ahead and start eating, and waited for the teacher to stop talking. When she finished, I calmly said, “It’s OK. It’s going to be OK. I can hear that you are upset. I am not going to come and pick him up today. Let’s take some deep breaths and figure this out.”

We agreed that we would meet after school and brainstorm some ideas. We would look at some positive rewards for my son to work towards, and keep looking forward, not worrying about what happened earlier or in the past. We would brainstorm some resources and tools to help both the teacher and my son feel successful. We would look more closely at who else is in the building to help at specific times, and who can lend a positive attitude and expertise to the classroom.

But for now, I decided to try a bite of raisin rum cake.

I tentatively took a small bite. It actually wasn’t what I expected. I had expected it to have a strong alcohol taste to it, but it didn’t. It was moist and kind of melted delicately in your mouth. It had a complexity that was hard to define, yet rich and delicious. It was actually quite delightful!

I decided I would take my son’s teacher a piece of dessert. Of course, I chose the raisin rum cake. I would take it as a token of kindness, but also as a bridge. By building bridges together — as a team — we can get everyone to where they want to go.

I will hope and pray that she too would be open to trying some new things. I will hope that she can open her heart and mind to learn how to best help my son grow and move forward in her class.

Trying new things can be scary. It can be uncomfortable. But, yum — new things can be exciting and adventurous too!

Originally published: February 9, 2021
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home