I have been scrolling through my pictures on social media a lot lately. I love them all. I have always been one to capture and then relive a moment over and over again in only the way a true nostalgic does.
It is not lost on me that for every one picture of my oldest or youngest, there are six or seven of my middle child — blasphemy, I know. My middle child also happens to have Down syndrome.
Thankfully, I am one with myself these days, and I take full responsibility for my good, bad, and ugly. I also have a good grasp of how others view me, so I’m not oblivious to possible sneers or contrite comments mentioning “her poor other children” who might be traumatized by their brother’s startling picture fanfare.
I recognize that many may think I couldn’t be any more obvious in choosing my “favorite.” I even realize that these critics may not be real at all and that I’m just staring down an advocate of the devil. In any case, I see it too. I see the excessive videos and strategic cuteness that consumes my newsfeed, all of it featuring the one who has an extra chromosome.
I also know that all my kids are freakin’ precious. You may not, but I do. You may believe that the one who looks slightly different, drools a smidgen, doesn’t speak as clearly as his siblings, and walks differently is scary. And that is why I exploit my child, or as defined by Oxford Dictionaries, to “make full use of and derive benefit from (a resource).”
My son Judah is my resource, my deliciously glorious little resource. Sharing him, making full use of his loveliness, benefits me. It exposes all of my people and their people to what they may not know. It breaks down barriers. It changes the world, if only a little bit, for my child; one of the three for whom I would tear my heart out.
This is why you were all overexposed to a little baby that even I was scared of. This is why you have watched him grow right alongside me. Hopefully, you have grown too. Hopefully, fear left your side like my fear-shadow left mine.
I even hope my son’s disability may transcend to all disabilities in your mind. I hope you’ll see a person in a wheelchair and think of Judah. I hope people recognize how each child with a disability has a family who is crazy about him or her. I hope the world realizes that people with disabilities are endowed with skills that are applause-worthy. I hope they are applauded and not given pathetic, sympathetic stares.
I hope that the “exploitation” of my son helps others appreciate that there are a hundred other people in the world who do not see him — or others with disabilities — as a diagnosis, but as a miracle, a gift, or at the very least, a person.
And all of this exploitation business is winning. I have received countless gifts in the form of messages from people thanking me for helping them to see beyond disability. So many unknowing souls have told me they are more compassionate beings because they have witnessed Judah meeting milestones like walking for the very first time. So many others have spoken of growing empathetic branches as they bore witness to our hospital stays and hardships.
So many have read articles they would have scrolled by in the past because now they know someone with Down syndrome too. My cause is now their cause. They share those articles on their social media, and my heart floats.
As long as Judah keeps doing things that are awesome (and he will), I will keep oversharing them. I will keep on exploiting the heck out him, and I will keep benefiting every time someone else does the same. I am fine with it. Because not only is he cute, funny, and deliciously devilish, he also came here to repair us all. His lucky life is here for the taking. I believe it is meant to be shared and learned from and loved on.
He is not just my gift. He is the world’s gift, and he has come here to change it, to make it more compassionate, more accepting of differences, more loving. He is the beautiful, endearing boy I exploit, and I own that in every sense of the word.