Saturday, September 9, 2017
9 Reasons Why I'm Grateful My Son Has Down Syndrome
There are a surprising number of parents who find out about their child's Down syndrome diagnosis and then join support groups in a tissy because they are worried about how bad it will be to have a child with Trisomy 21.
Now that Jacob is nearly seven, I like to think I have a bit of experience. So, to all those parents who just found out their child has Down syndrome, let me congratulate you. You've won the lottery! You will now get to raise one of the most amazing children on the planet!!
Why do I think that? Let me give you nine reasons:
1. They love unconditionally. I thank my lucky stars each and every day for Jacob. He is the kind of person who doesn't care what you look like, smell like, or think like. He doesn't care if you're young (though he is partial to babies and children smaller than him), old, middle-aged, black, white, tan, green, or purple. He loves you. If you grump. He ignores it (for the most part). If you grump at him, he gets over it pretty fast and loves you anyway. Every day he teaches me to look beyond the cover, and see what's inside. That's where a person's true value lies, and everyone is worth loving.
2. They give more than they take. Yes, children with Down syndrome require extra work, extra patience, and often extra care. But they seem to give back tenfold. When ever I need to smile. Jacob gives me seven. And then he laughs until I'm giggling right next to him. If I need a hug, he'll snuggle all day long if I want. If I need some company, he's happy to tag along wherever I go, regardless of what I'm doing. If I need love, he will smother me with kisses and adoration. If I need space, he's happy to give me some of that too. The boy's a giver.
3. They are intuitive to other's needs. I am constantly amazed at how in tune Jacob is to the needs of others around him. Granted, sometimes he still says, "screw you!", but most of the time, he senses our moods and our needs and works extra hard to give them to us. If I'm sick, that's the day he decides to hang around, watching Netflix while cocooning at my feet. Most days, I'm running after him screaming, "get back here!" If I'm angry and need space, he usually gives it to me. If need a hug, all the sudden he's in my face cuddling. He's that way with others - family and strangers alike. It's interesting to see how many strangers he interacts with and they tell me how badly they needed that time and energy from him.
4. They teach us to stop and smell the roses. Oh, this one he's taught me six ways, side ways and upside down. Jake is a quick learner, and he is extremely capable for a child with Ds. But if he doesn't want to learn something, or he doesn't see the value of it, nothing I do or say will make it happen. Instead, I'm forced to move at half a snail's pace, learning to appreciate the blessings I do have, feel the energy of those around us, take time to appreciate the scenery, and literally learn the joys and mysteries of playing with sticks. And I highly recommend it to anyone who is reading this. I'm a person who finds a task or chooses a goal and puts on my blinders, moving a million miles per minute until I achieve it. Jacob has taught me that not all who wander are lost.
5. They teach us that the opinions of others do not matter. On those rare occasions when someone is mean or cruel based off of Jacob's disability, or if they say something out of ignorance, it is easy to become offended, hurt or angry. Those are the moments when I observe Jacob and realize, he doesn't really care what others think of him. He's on this earth to love and enrich those around him. If someone wants to be his friend, then great! Join the masses. If not, no worries. Haters are gonna hate and he's not concerned with their opinions.
6. They teach us what is truly important in life. Before Jake was born, I used to think that having one's health was the most important thing. If we had nothing else, then we would be fine. Then I had Jacob. And he was NOT healthy. I spent many nights in the hospital gazing at my sleeping son with mottled skin, and labored breathes, wondering what was truly important. If not health, then what? Then it occurred to me that the truly important things are not things. They're love and relationships, not matter how fleeting. Money runs dry, health deteriorates, friends move on, family can be conditional. But love conquers all, and healthy relationships will help a person survive virtually anything.
7. They teach us to never give up. My child is not a quitter. Yeah, it may take him longer to learn something. It may not. But when he puts his mind to it, hell itself won't keep him from achieving his task. Fall down seven times, get up eight? Psht. Amateurs. Fall down 57 times, get up 58.
8. They help us learn to serve others. One of the hardest things I learned to do while Jake was in the hospital was to accept help. I'm the sort of person who can plan a seven course meal with the mayor, fix your sprinkler system, sew a dress, and build you a website. With nine siblings, our parents taught us to do just about everything. And if we didn't know how, by golly open up a book and learn! So when I was no longer able to do everything, I had to ask for (and accept) help from others. For a very long time. I'm talking years. But this experience helped me learn what it feels like to ask for help, receive help, and how important it is to offer and serve others with the right attitude. Oh what a difference is makes to walk a mile in another's shoes.
9. They are unfiltered. Jacob's inability to filter his reactions is one of my favorite things about him. I always know where I stand with him. Always. If he's upset at me, I know it. If he's happy. I'll get the biggest grin on the planet. If he's feeling playful, be prepared for lots and lots of zerberts. If he's said, he'll let me know. I don't have to second guess, or interpret him. For a non-verbal child, Jacob is incredibly expressive.
After seven years, heart surgeries, countless medical procedures, and all the issues we've had with speech, etc. I still wouldn't trade my Jacob for anything in the world. If I was told before he was born what his childhood would be like, I still would have chosen to keep him. Because, from beginning to end, Jacob has been one of our greatest blessings.