Take a breath and imagine the following scenario as if you are one of the parents.
You are at an event with a ton of kids. Your best mama friends are there, it’s early, and you all have a steaming coffee in your hands. It’s a sunny, early Spring day and your kids are playing with your friend’s kids. The littles are having an absolute blast as they giggle and play with rocks. You and your friends are laughing, relaxing, and enjoying the luxury of adult company during a few moments of bliss where all your little ones are content and entertained. Your fellow adult types and you are laughing away at the latest story one of you is sharing when someone interrupts you.
Another mom, sobbing so much she can barely speak, walks up and says,
This is so sad. I just don’t know how you all do it. How do you cope? I am so sorry!
The part of this story that I left out is that all the women enjoying life and sipping coffee just so happen to all have children with Down syndrome. They were at a charity event raising money for (insert name here), and this actually happened. My friend Christine and her beautiful, healthy, happy, brilliant little girl Emma were there. Christine was one of the happy, content mamas enjoying her coffee and Emma was one of the giggling kiddos playing with rocks.
I wish I could write this instance off as just one person who acted inappropriately, but I can’t. As a mama to a handsome little dude with Down syndrome, I know this situation to be a regular happening all too well.
It happens at the doctor’s office in the eyes of fellow parents tearing up as they look at my son.
It happens at the grocery store when I’m doing everything in my power to keep my kids entertained so they don’t have a complete meltdown before I get through most of my list, and the cashier suddenly asks, “Did you know when you were pregnant? Oh my God, you did? Why did you decide to keep him?”
It happens every single time someone at any random place says, “I’m so sorry!”
I get it. I remember what life was like three and a half years ago before having a child with special needs. I remember not knowing what to say in awkward situations. I remember not getting it, and I understand being in that situation. What I don’t understand is how you can miss the good. I don’t understand how someone can completely miss the beauty in a simple moment of calm and decide these people need to be pitied. That these people are living unbearable lives.
We are NOT pity cases. Friends, we are “The Lucky Few.” We are the parents who get a rare glimpse into how much beauty comes from adversity. We are the parents who have the honor to parent a child that shows us the beauty in being different. We are the parents that understand the value of a milestone. We are the parents that get a rare opportunity to see the world through the eyes of someone with a disability. While this might sound like something to be pitied to you, for us it is the greatest gift we have ever been given. For us, having a child with a disability is the greatest blessing we never knew we wanted.
On top of all of that, we are also just parents who may be having a rare moment where they can actually finish a cup of coffee while it is still hot. We are just parents enjoying a beautiful moment where everyone is happy and calm and we can enjoy a little adult conversation. We are just parents, who are smiling and laughing, that should not have to have someone tell them that somehow the world thinks their life is a tragedy to be pitied.
We are parents, just like you, that love our children. We get annoyed by our children, frustrated with our children, and still love them just like you. We are more alike than different, and we need you to remember that.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you see a parent of a child with special needs somewhere, do that parent a solid and treat them the same way you would treat any other mother or father. If you want to say something to them, great, but how about trying this.
“Your little one is absolutely adorable. You’re doing a great job Mama/Dad!”