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Monthly Archives: March 2015
This past Saturday was World Down Syndrome Day (the date, 3:21 signifies the presence of a third 21st chromosome, which defines Down Syndrome, or Trisomy 21). While I couldn’t get it together enough to post on the actual date (it was a Saturday, we were on vacation, I can’t write when locked in a small condo at the beach with my children – let’s all hear it for rainy days during spring break), I can’t let this occasion go by without comment. I won’t fire out a bunch of statistics for you today. You can find plenty of that on Google, or more qualified sites than this one. And that’s not what my point is anyway.
My point, very simply, revolves around the basic human elements of love and friendship.
One of my favorite people on the planet has Down Syndrome. His name is Aaron, and he is incredible. Our entire family loves him (as do so many people), but none more than his little BFF, our youngest child and princess, Emry.
They are buds, pure and simple. They generally get along well, mostly because Aaron lets her boss him around, and that’s an important trait in a friend to her (I’m sure she’ll outgrow this). When he gets tired of her orders, he walks away….sometimes shaking his head, sometimes stomping off in irritation. They always reunite, though, with lots of hugs and plenty of smiles. It’s beautiful.
Don’t ever try to tell her that he’s “different”. It irritates her, and she gets impatient with that conversation. I’ve only tried it once, due to an unfortunate cucumber-to-the-face incident (apparently, there are times when walking away just doesn’t get the point across strongly enough). I opened with something along the lines of, “You know, baby, how God makes everyone unique?” It earned me a glare, a raised finger in the universal sign for shush-it, and an indignant, “Don’t, Mommy. Just don’t. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and I do not want you to tell me he can’t help it.”
Okay, then. I’ll just go get you an ice pack…….
He’s her forever friend, and she loves him, pure and simple.
She doesn’t want his idiosyncracies explained away. She doesn’t want him labelled, or categorized, or put in a diagnosis box. She doesn’t want limits put on him to explain what he can or can’t do, what his behavior looks like, or what his goals should be (she’s still a bit bitter that he started Kindergarten before her).
Over the weekend, I was talking about Aaron to my husband, and I made the comment that he is beautiful (because he so totally is). Emry, ever listening from across the room, perked up and whipped her head around. This made me a little nervous about what might come out of her mouth, since she tends to have issues with compliments not aimed at her. We just recently got her to quit announcing, “I’m cuter than her/him” every time someone admires anyone who is not her. I’m pretty sure she still says it silently to herself, but at least we’ve started the appearance of humility. It’s a work in progress.
Back to the conversation. It went a little something like this….
Emry: Aaron’s beautiful?
Me: Yes, he is.
Emry: Um….no, he’s not.
Emry: Aaron is handsome, Mommy. Not beautiful, handsome.
And then my heart melted a little. Because she loves her friend, and sees him as handsome. Because she corrected me to use a word she knows is socially appropriate for boys – we call her brothers handsome. Same goes for her friend. Because she didn’t have to think twice about it, or qualify it, or add anything other than the simple statement of fact.
And a little because she actually gave another person a compliment without hesitation or competition.
She gets it. Most kids do. It’s the adults who screw things up.
I have hope for this generation. I think if we get out of the way, if we don’t try to categorize, or label, or define everything for them, they will surpass and surprise us at every turn. I think they get it right a lot of the time, and they deserve our forgiveness when they don’t. I think if we model grace and acceptance, they won’t need to attack that which they don’t understand or recognize, because it won’t be scary.
If we stand behind them, instead of barricading paths in front of them, and teach them to do the same, we’ll let the world move forward….and spend less time focused on differences from this angle. How great would that be?
Solidarity, sisters. Happy Belated World Down Syndrome Day.
Hi, love:You don’t mind if I call you “love”, do you? After all, you’re about to be a part of our family now, which makes you a person of great importance in my life. As such, please know that I really do love you and truly have your best interest at heart.
I know you haven’t asked, yet, but I’d like to give you a few pieces of advice. Before you roll your eyes and prepare to ignore every word I write (or say), please consider my qualifications:
1) I raised your husband, and know him incredibly well.
2) I’ve managed to stay married to his father for a not-insignificant amount of time, so have experience in this matter.
3) I am totally, 100% vested in the success of your marriage, with no agenda other than the happiness of my son and stability of my grandchildren’s home.
There are just some basic principles I’d like to review – some dos and don’ts, if you will. Ready? Here we go:
Don’t be crazy
It’s not cute. It’s not cool. It’s usually manipulative and sometimes cruel. No one likes that girl, believe me. They may tolerate her, but they don’t like her. He’s in love with you. It’s that simple. He wants to spend the rest of his life with you. Trust in that. Playing with his emotions or trying to control him via tantrums, or threats, or hysterical crying fits will eventually lead to more problems than you can handle.
Contrary to the proclamation of Miss Taylor Swift, boys do not only want love if it’s torture.
I’m not saying you can’t ever have an outburst, or meltdown, or bad day. He’s lived with me (and with his sister) for many years. The boy can handle some drama, let me tell you. I’m just saying save it for the really necessary or special occasions. He’ll just learn to ignore you if you overuse the melodrama and mood swings.
Please, for the love of all things everywhere, don’t be a Bridezilla
No one is disputing that you are the Princess of Your Wedding. You absolutely are. You’ll be the prettiest, best dressed, most sparkly focus of the entire event. We will all bow to your wishes and carry out every one of your ideas with enthusiasm and smiling faces, no matter what our true feelings may be. After all, you’re one of the two most important people of the day.
The groom is the other one, in case that isn’t obvious.
No matter what the bridal magazines or your girlfriends say, it’s not actually all about you. He’s sort of a big deal, too. Without him, there wouldn’t be a wedding.
Marriage is about two individuals coming together as one in the most sacred relationship you can have with another person on this earth. The wedding is the celebration around your formalization and public proclamation of love and commitment.
This is one of the happiest days of your life.
Focus on that, and don’t let anything else take precedence.Your groom may have an idea or two as to how this looks.
Listen to him.
He comes from a family that loves music and parties. We are all hoping to enjoy ourselves at this, his most important party.
FYI – there may or may not be a Mother-Son breakout dance number in the works.
It’s not a competition
You win. By definition, as his wife, you have officially displaced me as the most important woman in my son’s life. Believe it or not, we’ve spent years ingraining this mentality into his way of thinking – through Biblical teachings, in talks we’ve had, by example in our marriage and way of life.
Ephesians 5:31 – “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife….”
You don’t have to wonder if he loves you best. He does.
You don’t have to wonder if you come first. You do.
You don’t have to test him or make him prove it to you over and over by declining invites to our house, or haggling over holidays, or announcing that your cooking is better than mine.
There is no contest.
I know my place, and I will do my very best to respect it.
That being said, this is probably going to require patience on both our parts. Just because I know the new order of things doesn’t mean I like it. It’s going to take some getting used to.
I’m working on it.
Love him most
It’s a simple, three-word sentence, and it will change your life if you can embrace it. Love him most, as in more than all else.
More than Facebook (or whatever social media is in vogue now)
More than your job
More than your house
More than being right
More than your pride
More than your agenda
More than anyone else on the planet, including your parents, your siblings, or your best friend.
Love him with all your heart, and watch him bloom. He’ll become more than the man of your dreams. He’ll thrive in every area. He’ll treat you like the Queen of the World, and give you the moon. Trust me. He’s his father’s son. I know this to be true, because I’ve lived it his whole life.
Keep the main thing the main thing
You are getting an incredible guy, which I assume you know.
He’s breathtakingly handsome (I may be a bit biased, but still…..truth is truth).
He can cook.
He can dance.
He’s smart and creative and motivated.
If he’s stuck with the lessons we pay so much money for, he’s a great musician by now.
He hunts and fishes, and cleans his own game (mama started that from the beginning).
He loves me, and adores his sister, which means he is tolerant of and sensitive to women.
He is a hugger, and loves to make other people laugh.
I am aware, my dear, that he is not perfect. Unless miracles have occurred, he’s got some things that may very well drive you crazy.
He leaves his shoes out. Constantly. You will always trip over them.
The hunting/fishing thing means camo everything all over the place – and it has to be washed with special, non-scented detergent or all hell breaks loose (you can thank his dad for that one). It also means you will spend your life fighting for vacations that do not revolve around those two activities (again, go see your father-in-law…not my area), and finding bait or bullets in weird places. He can’t hear a word you say if the TV is on. Ever.
He has no concept of time when he’s distracted. Which is often (that one may be on me).
Love him anyway. Pick a hill or two to die on. Three, max. Then let the rest go. Come see me when it gets to be too much. We’ll sing the song together.
Wherever you go, whatever you do….seek God with all your heart. You’ll find Him, I promise. He’s there. He’s already got you in His arms, you just need to discover Him for yourself.
And once you encounter Him, keep Him in your sight.
You’ll wander a little, I can almost guarantee it. That’s okay. You can never go so far that He can’t find you and bring you home. Remember that.
You’re so young. Currently, as I write this letter to you, you may not even be out of elementary school.
I’m already praying for you.
I’m praying for your health and well-being.
I’m praying for your growth and development.
I’m praying for your strength and purity.
I’m praying for the day you meet my son, and for the life you will build together.
Talk to God. All the time. The sooner you learn to do this, and the better at it you are, the easier your life will feel. Your paths will be clearer. Your heart will be lighter. Your steps will be more secure.
There is no truth stronger than this.
We’re excited to meet you.
I know we’re a loud bunch, and can be a lot to take in. We love big, we laugh big….we’ve got big hair.
We’ve also got big hearts.
And we’re really fun. I promise.
We’ll always have your back. And we’ll all be dancing at your wedding, celebrating with absolute joy.
Just know that in my head, he’ll look like this that night, because he’s my baby even though he’s your man.
Solidarity, sister. Welcome to the family.