Maybe it looks to outsiders as if I am now “in the know” about being a T21 mom. Just as young parents might look up to parents whose oldest children are teens and think that they are “in the know” about rearing teenagers, not realizing that they are learning their lessons right now, ahem. Well, the same is true of having a child with Down syndrome. For years to come, we will be learning all the facets of what it means to have a child with Down syndrome.
There are so many things about rearing Verity that are the same as, or very similar to what it was like rearing her older siblings. What I wrote yesterday gives you a little glimpse into one of the differences. I don’t study strangers in public to look for clues about what my other children may grow up to be. It just wouldn’t occur to me to do that.
Well, another learning experience came my way this week.
How many times have I heard other moms discuss this scenario, and I just didn’t understand, until…
…well…let me tell you the story…
The sun had gone down, and shadows and lightbeams played across our eyes as we slammed our car doors and made our way across the parking lot. I was still pondering my encounter with the lady with Down syndrome I had seen just minutes before. Unbeknownst to me, my emotions were still somewhat unsteady.
We veered aside to make way for a small family who was approaching their car. The dad passed us with loaded cart, then a mom with a small baby and a young girl. Just then, light fell across the daughter’s face and I gasped, “Oh!” and stood paralyzed for just a moment, tears rushing to my eyes for the second time that night. I looked quickly from daughter to mom, and was not encouraged by the prickly look I saw there, so I continued walking, more slowly now than before. All this took place in a flash, much faster than it takes to write it out, or to read it.
As we walked on, Joe saw my face, and asked what was wrong. I explained. I could hardly believe that after many months without seeing any people with Down syndrome when I was out in public, it was happening for the second time within an hour.
He urged me to go back and say something. Typically, I don’t hesitate to strike up conversations with strangers. I know I will regret it later if I don’t take the opportunity when it is right before me. And reading about other T21 moms in similar situations, I had always thought that those moms were probably just shy. I was determined that if I ever had the chance, I would jump right on it!
But that night, the chance stood before me, and for the second time in an hour, I did not take it. Why?
This time it was because I wasn’t one hundred percent sure I was right. I only got a brief glance, and the light was not the best. I was only ninety-nine percent sure.
Now I understand.
It has to be one hundred percent.
There is no way in a million years I would have gone back to that family, under those circumstances.
What would I have said to them? What could I have said?
What if I was wrong??
If I was wrong, the girl’s parents would most likely have been exceedingly offended.
Now I have experienced another facet of this unique parenting journey.
Now I understand.
It is considered an insult to be mistaken for a person with Down syndrome.