I am completely baffled that there are still individuals on this planet who are so politically incorrect that we still need to remind them how to act around individuals with special needs. For me, being a parent of a young man with Down Syndrome, has provided me with lots of learning opportunities.
Growing up, there was a girl that lived across the street from me and I would periodically play with her. I didn’t notice that she was different, just that she was nice. The other children in the neighborhood began to make fun of me for having this relationship with her. They referred to her as (and I hate this word) “retarded”. Due to peer pressure and lack of self-esteem, I discontinued my relationship with her and to this day, regret it. I often wonder how she felt when I abruptly abandoned her.
How sad that, while our society has shifted their perception, there are still those who lack compassion or for that matter, common sense. Here are a few things that, as a parent, I would like to see society do:
1. Stop using the R-word. The slang definition is stupid or foolish which describes the people that actually use it. I have heard it from the most educated individuals and they quickly say that they aren’t referring to Bailey. Really?!?! I am still offended, so thanks for playing.
2. Please don’t say that God thinks I am extra special because he gave me Bailey. We are all special children of God. It doesn’t make me any better than the parent with typical children. We all faces challenges. Mine just look a little different.
3. Please don’t look at me like I kicked a puppy when I refer to Bailey as an ass. Bailey is a teenager. Let’s face it, teenagers are asses. Having Down Syndrome doesn’t excuse him from the hormones that rage within him.
4. Include us. I think that is the hardest thing for me. When I had Bailey, I had friends at the time who had kids his age. We were never included in their children’s birthday parties or play dates. It is that type of dismissive behavior that hurts the most. Thank God that today, I surround myself with people who love and accept him.
5. Get a support system. People who understand what you are going through. There are certain triggers that can cause me to grieve that child that I thought I would have. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade Bailey for the world, but there are moments where I wonder what he would be like without Down Syndrome. I won’t apologize for those times.
As a parent, I am literally feeling my way through the dark. Trial and error is my friend. As I continue the journey of motherhood, I am reminded that the only thing I know, is I am blessed by two boys that present me with enormous opportunities to grow, learn, and fail. The only limitation is life is not trying. My amends to that young girl I shunned as a child is to be an advocate and an educator of tolerance.