Sometimes I forget that our son has Down syndrome. It’s easy to be distracted by his two year old tantrums, his mischievous smile and go getter attitude. Gabe is stubborn yet kind hearted. When big sister is having a dramatic, I’m-four-and-the-world-is-OVER, meltdown, he is the first to run and check on her. He often climbs into your lap and stretches his little fingers up to stroke your cheek, his way of saying “I love you”.
He also destroys things; opens drawers, pulls things out, throws them on floor. When you confront him, he ducks his head and looks up from under his eyebrows with a sort of sorry smirk. He helps pick up, sometimes, or wanders off to destroy something else. He loves music and will start to dance the second he hears it. He absolutely cannot resist participating in a round of Itsy Bitsy, or Twinkle Twinkle, no matter how upset he may have been seconds before. Gabe can make music from anything, even dancing to the fireworks on Fourth of July celebration.
Sometimes I forget, because Gabe is just that; Gabe. When I look at him I don’t see Down syndrome, I see my son, Abi’s brother, a sweet, willful, amazing, determined little boy.
Sometimes I forget, and that makes it even harder when someone reminds me in a not so kind way….
Like the cashier who gave me the sad eyes and spit poison in a whisper, “I bet you wish you had known before he came out. You know they have a test for that now…”
Shock, horror, hurt and fury coursed through my body. I considered jerking her over the register and beating her senseless. I looked her up and down, I could take her….but orange is not my color. So I used whit instead.
I smiled a crazy lady smile “I know right?! It’s SO much harder to get rid of them once they come out. Believe ME, I’ve tried…”
Jackpot! Her mouth dropped open and she stared at me in shock. I leaned over the edge of the counter and whispered back at her:
“So what you’re saying is that it’s okay for me to kill him while he’s inside, but not outside my body? For ME there isn’t a difference. For the record, we knew EVERYTHING about him while I was pregnant. There is no way in hell that I would let any harm come to either one of my children, including during the time that they’re so ridiculously considered disposable.”
I sometimes forget. I HAD forgotten that sometimes other people don’t immediately see GABE, they see a “downs kid”. They see poor parents and a burdened sister. They see a child who must be suffering in some way, sickly and incapable. I sometimes forget, until I glance up and see the pity in their eyes, or hear ignorant comments in not so hushed whispers.
I sometimes forget, that it’s not their fault, they just DON’T KNOW. They don’t know the sting that their words carry. They don’t know Gabe, they haven’t heard his giggle or been infected by his smile. They haven’t seen the fierceness with which his big sister protects him, despite her insistence that she doesn’t like “boy babies”. They have screamed at the top of their lungs for him as he conquers a new milestone, their parent hearts swelling with pride.
I sometimes forget that, that was me once too. What I knew about Down syndrome before Gabe, was what I’d learned from my nursing text books. It was only enough to leave me sobbing hysterically and envisioning a listless, immobile, incapable child. I didn’t know.
Sometimes we forget, to us they’re just Gabe, AJ, Max, Gavin or Maddie, and that’s how it should be.
Related post: I Never Knew I Wanted a Child with Down syndrome
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