By Guest Blogger Laura Laxton
We found out during my pregnancy that our second child would have Down syndrome, and, as you’d imagine, it was a pretty big shock. Naturally, we heard a lot of information (and opinions) about what would be “wrong” with the baby and potential problems we might face but very little pointing out the positives. (I would find out after getting involved in local and national support groups that this is incredibly common.)
There was one person, however, who immediately saw the good – the benefit, even – of the situation. And I will be forever grateful to him for not only giving me a good laugh but for reminding me that attitude or perspective reeeeeeeeeeeally matters.
My husband and I were very open about sharing the news. Not too long after I had sent an email to friends and family, a woman I had worked with called because she just had to tell me what her husband said.
A defense attorney by trade, her husband comes from a culture where sons are encouraged to live with their parents. When he heard about our son’s Down syndrome, he immediately exclaimed, “Oh! They are SO lucky! He will never be a criminal, and he might stay with them when he grows up!”
To be honest, the potential for criminal behavior in a child of mine is not something that had ever crossed my mind, but his comment made me realize that yep, the chances of this particular child growing up to become a thief or embezzler were pretty remote. It was a healthy dose of perspective that came at a perfect time.
See, parenting a child with special needs is definitely different in some ways. We have to worry about things that parents of typical kids rarely think of. But, to me, parenting is parenting is parenting. Siblings in the same household get parented slightly differently because they are different people who react differently to the same situation. It’s a matter of adapting your expectations according to the nature and talents of the child.
When our daughter didn’t walk independently until she was 18 months old, we worried. When our son started walking independently at 22 months, we celebrated. When our daughter could read her own bedtime stories, we were thrilled. At nine, our son still doesn’t read independently (although he can recite favored books) so we still snuggle up and read to him every night. Neither of the kids know how to ride a bike, but my money is on our son learning first, even though he’s five years younger.
Every child is going to break your heart in some way or other. It could be getting caught drinking underage or yelling they hate you during a typical parent-child argument or, yes, becoming a criminal. In our son’s case, it’s his lack of verbal skills and vocabulary because other children shy away from him when they can’t understand him.
As the saying goes, “It’s always something,” and that’s true whether you have a child with special needs or one who is typically developing. But yeah, my friend’s husband was absolutely right: We definitely are SO lucky to have our son, and I wouldn’t trade him – or his Down syndrome – for the world.