Beth will be 26 in a few months. Some days I think I've learned all there is to know about Down Syndrome. Other days I realize I still have so much to learn. Our kids may all have Down Syndrome, but they can be as different from each other as every other kid on the playground.
For Beth, we've learned to be patient. It has not been an easy lesson. My youngest daughters and I are fast walkers. Not speedy, but when we walk through the mall, we're movin' at a decent pace. Not Beth. She saunters. Everywhere. I have learned not to take her when I am short on time. It will only lead to frustration and tears. I know. Trust me. Now the mall is only for casual strolls.
We have learned not to give up. Completely. We have given up on occasion. Potty training for instance. We started when Beth was 4 years old. Gave up when she was 5. Started again at 6. Success at 7! Sometimes it's all in the timing.
We've learned that sometimes it's all in the timing.
We've learned that I don't know how to fly the Space Shuttle. And Beth doesn't know how to ride a bike. There are some things Beth will never be able to do. She rode a small, red trike. Then a two wheeler with training wheels. She never learned to balance without the training wheels. She tried! Lord knows she tried. Eventually, the training wheels broke (she just got too big for them.) She's never riden a bike since. She will never drive a car. And I will never be the captian of a cruise liner.
And we're okay with that.
We've learned not to take it personally. When Beth is angry at me for making her brush her hair or bring a jacket, she can be heard yelling, "I hate you! You not my mom!" Beth is not the only one of our children to express their dislike for our parenting skills.
This last lesson was the most difficult of all.
We've learned there will be bullies in our lives. In mine. In yours. Even Beths. Beth has had rocks thrown at her while walking home from school. She had an adult flip her off while she sat in the car. I had a doctor say she looked weird. Beth was born in San Diego. The first day was filled with specialists and social workers and family. At the end of the day, the woman I shared the room with pulled back the curtain that separated our beds and asked me about Beth. The next morning (the curtain was closed) she asked her doctor (well she whispered to him) if her baby had Down Syndrome. Her doctor laughed. He couldn't see me and obviously didn't know the situation. She asked him again and he said, "Downs babies look weird. You'd know it if you had one!" And he laughed again as he headed down the hall. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes and occupations. Be prepared for them. You might not be able to stop their comments or insults, but you can educate them.
I take comfort in Jesus' words to his Father, "They do not know what they are doing."
(Over the years I've come up with a scenario for that doctor. I imagine he looks like the Ken doll. Young, clean cut. He goes back to the lounge that is filled with other doctors, nurses and maybe an EMT for good measure. He speaks loud enough for all to hear, "Guess what one of my patients just asked me?!" All eyes and ears are on him now because these professionals have heard some good ones, I'm sure. Then he says it, with a high, man trying to sound like woman voice, "Does my baby have Down Syndrome?!" He laughs alone, because everyone else in the room knows what he does not. An older, wiser doctor asks him, "What room is your patient in?" He stifles his laugh long enough to answer. "Why?" He is stunned at the news. Angry at himself for making such a sad, thoughless, rookie mistake. He stands at the nursery window looking at Beth. This absolutely gorgous child.... and a tear... falls... down his cheek.)
And then I feel so much better!!!