Before I had Jake, I had no connection to the world of disabilities. Had I met someone on the street, in the store, or at church, I would have had no idea how to interact with them. It is not that I was ever trying to be hurtful, I was just naive because the disability world had never been a part of my experience.
I am aware that many of you who read my blog may find yourselves in the same position. I am aware that Jake may be the first person you have met with a disability. And I am also aware that sometimes you may find yourself wondering what to say, what not to say, or how to act. For those of you who have ever felt this way in the least (and please note there is no judgment here for having those feelings!), I give you this:
3 THINGS I WISH YOU WOULD DO:
Asking questions is a fantastic way to start a dialogue. I love talking about Jake, about Down syndrome, or about the journey that we are on. Many times, however, I will not volunteer the information if I’m not specifically asked, simply because I don’t want to be the overbearing mother who won’t stop yammering on about her child and about Down syndrome! Asking questions is a great way to learn more, to get me to open up (although once the floodgates are open, you may regret that you asked!), and to ultimately better understand and appreciate my son and others who share an extra chromosome.
Listening goes hand-in-hand with asking questions, but sometimes it can go beyond that. There are times in everyone’s life when we just need a listening ear. This is definitely true in my own life, and as I struggle through some of the complexities of Down syndrome and parenting, there are times when I could just use a listening ear. A non-judgmental, safe person; someone who does not need to solve everything for me, but is content to just let me vent and work it out.
Get to know Jake
I know that I am obviously biased, but Jake is an amazing little boy! He has a very distinct, loveable, mischievous personality. Interact with him. Play with him. Communicate with him. Treat him with the same love and respect with which you would treat any other kiddo. Do not let him get away with things you wouldn’t let your 2 year old get away with! You will be surprised at what you will learn.
Stay tuned tomorrow for my thoughts on “3 Things I Wish You Wouldn’t Do”.