A million years ago (fine, more like 8), a colleague was telling me of his family's birth stories. As it so often happens, his wife finally got pregnant -- after they had given up. She was in her early 40's.
"Oh!", I gasped, "but weren't you scared?" "Scared of what?" he asked. "Of having a kid with Down syndrome," I responded, wondering a little why I even needed to mention that. I mean, she was in her early 40's -- what else was there to be scared of? "Oh, no," he replied, adding something to the effect that he likes kids and having a kid-for-life would be all right with him.
I also like kids. I used to be an elementary school teacher and I'd pinch myself some days, that I was actually getting paid to play with these small, most amazing people. I love kids.
And while I knew -- and know -- nothing about the kid-for-life thing, I know that I love kids.
I held this tight to me through my pregnancy with Moxie. It was the only thing that I could find to bring me a measure of relief in the whole horrible, anxiety-racking business of growing me moxie. The internet was full of things about 'angels', about loving Christian goodness. About 'choosing life' about 'special-ness' about a whole lot of things that frankly, brought me no comfort. I am simply not that kind of person.
So I wanted to write a little list for the people like me that might be out there, might be reading this. The little list is the Top 5 Things That I Like About Having a Kid With Down Syndrome. Without further ado, I present:
The Top 5 Things That I Like About Having a Kid With Down Syndrome
1. She's my kid. This might seem glaringly obvious, but when you are pregnant with a child with Trisomy 21, your imagination makes the most wild leaps. Suddenly, you see that guy over there on the street who has Down syndrome and think your kid is going to look like him. And would you do that for your typically-developing child? Would you point out some random guy on the street (who might even be a different race) and get all wanked out, thinking that -- GASP! -- my little darling is going to look like HIM!
Nope. I think not.
So why do we do it for our kids with Down syndrome?
Our kids are ours. She's got my mother's blue eyes. She's got Mikey's mother's will power and awesome eyelashes. She's got Mikey's family's lips. She's got my fair skin (poor child, I'm so sorry) as well as my "strawberry blonde" hair that has a Vietnamese page as it's straight, not wavy or curly like the hair that my family has. She is my kid.
2. Our kids are our own, and yet not. Like Gibran says,
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
Moxie is mine and yet is not. She has placed a lens of a different type of experience over my eyes, filtering the world through her unique vision. That may or may not have anything to do with an extra chromosome.
3. Speaking of eyes. Eyes. Almond eyes are gorgeous. There is something so... magical about them. You might not ever 'get' it until you 'get' it, but trust me. Once you 'get' it, you've 'gotten' it. Got it?
4. When you have a kid with Down syndrome, you are automatically released from all expectation. The BabyCenter milestones emails? Chuck 'em. They mean nothing. Your kid will develop as s/he will and nothing or noone is going to change that. This, my friend, is freedom. It's the most liberating thing in the world, as a parent, to not have to worry about the when's and the how's and the why'ever's or where'fore's. If you still are, check them at the door and go ahead and lose the ticket. Do it now. I'll wait for you.
All parents learn this sooner or later. That your kid is on his/her own time frame, typically developing or not. The thing is, parents of kids with Down syndrome learn this one hell of a lot faster, and I think this is why they have studies that show that mothers of kids with Down syndrome are a lot happier than mothers of typically developing kids. Without expectations on us, without all this worrisome...worry, we are free to simply enjoy our child. Live. Be. Maybe with a bit of therapy and stuff, but really, just be.
5. Size. Perhaps this tickles only me, huge giant Teutonically-Nordic 50-foot woman that I am, but I dig having a small child, knowing that she's always going to be smaller than me. I really love it!
My own mother is taller than I, always has been (she used to verge on 6' - I think she's shrunk...how tall are you, Ma?). It's lovely having a mother that's taller. You get to feel like a coddled child when you are around her, for the rest of your whole entire life! Marvelous!
I like that I will provide that for Moxie, and I like that she will be petite. Petite is so beautiful. Small is so good. My bias, but I have never, for the life of me, ever understood this society's quest to get tall.
And there you have it. My Top 5.
What are yours?
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