A year ago, my husband and I went to the most beautiful wedding we will probably ever attend. If there were a show called “My Celebrity Style Wedding,” this wedding would have been on it. It was at a multi-million dollar beachfront home, with multiple bands, dozens of food stations and even synchronized swimmers in the backyard pool. As stunning as it all was, nothing stood out to me more than something the rabbi said during the ceremony. He said, “Marriage is not the most important thing, it is the only important thing.” It stuck with me.
When you have a child with Down syndrome, you get inducted into a club. Other parents reach out to you, they calm you, they strengthen you, they get you. A week after we brought our son home from the NICU, another club member sent my husband and me an e-mail. She found out her son had Down syndrome right after he was born. She wrote about all of the fears she had and how her son is constantly proving most of those fears to be unfounded. She talked about the hope she has for his future.
When we were done reading, my husband looked at me; he was barely able to speak. The tears ran down his face with such force that his throat started to close up, but he was able to choke out a sentence that I will never forget: “I hope he meets a girl with Down syndrome, I want him to love someone the way I love you.”
When we were in the diagnosis phase, I think it was this very topic that haunted me the most. Marriage was so important to me, to us; would he ever get to experience it for himself? Will he ever find someone to love and will that someone love him back? As life expectancy increases for people with Down syndrome, so does the marriage rate. But it appears that when people with Down syndrome get married, it’s a newsworthy event. It’s still not commonplace.
I want him to get married, but I now realize that I want him to get married because marriage has brought me so much joy. Marriage makes me a better person. But just because I have chosen to make it the center of my life, doesn’t mean that it has to be the center of his life. And that would be OK. Our job as parents isn’t to make photocopy versions of our selves. Our job is to instill our good values in our children, but also to teach them to be independent, to make their own decisions, to make their own lives.
So, to the rabbi, I kindly disagree. Marriage isn’t the only thing, love is. Maybe our son won’t love someone the way his Dad and I love each other, but he will love and he will be loved. He will love his sister, his grandparents, his cousins and maybe even a wife. Married or unmarried, our son’s life will be full of love.
Related post: I Never Knew I Wanted a Child with Down Syndrome