Sunday, March 20, 2011

Does Intelligence Determine Worth?

Is a person's worth determined by intelligence? beauty? athletic prowess? innate ability to excel?

Today's society is consumed by a certain image. Tall, slender, beautiful, successful, smart- movie starish.
This seems to the unspoken goal of so many. I think that subconsciously even if we aren't trying to copy somebody famous with our look and achievement status, many of us look to society's standard to set our worth or the worth of others around us. Am I skinny enough? Beautiful enough? Smart enough? Make enough money?

I used to think this way. Smart, beautiful people were useful to the world. They built things, they invented things, they created something out of nothing in an almost godlike fashion. If you weren't smart, beautiful and "useful to society", your life didn't really serve much of a purpose. You were a mere placeholder- a burden.

As I type those very words, my cheeks burn with shame as I realize how wrong my perspective had been. Not that I did anything hateful to act out towards my thoughts or even acknowledge them out loud. It's just the way society trained me to think towards the value and importance of intelligence.

Last year when I had a daughter with an extra chromosome that accompanied the label of mental retardation, my world was turned upside down. My original thought towards my daughter was colored by my previous suppositions. I feared that I could never love her- she would never accomplish anything real in life- she would be an embarrassment.

Looking back now, I am amazed at how incredibly wrong I was. So, so, so wrong.
Addison may have Down syndrome. She may have limitations, both physical and mental. But I have learned that those things don't mean that I love her any less, and they certainly don't make her worth less as a person. She is the most valuable thing in my life. No amount of money could convince me to change her for a daughter with a normal number of chromosomes. She is my perfect daughter, and I love her for exactly who she is.

You hear words thrown around such as "high functioning" and "low functioning"- these words have the ability on some days to really scare me. But today I look those words in the face and I say- it doesn't matter one bit. End of the day- she is my daughter, and I will help her be the very best version of herself no matter what end of the functioning spectrum she falls into.
Addison has brought our family more joy than we ever dreamed possible. We are just starting the journey with her and it could not be more amazing because we have the most amazing baby.

Would someone have the nerve to say that my daughter is worth less than another baby girl because she has limitations? I sincerely hope not. Because to me, my daughter is more important to me than even my own life.

Intelligence- beauty- society's perfect "normal" person- who cares? Why do we have to live by that stilted definition? To me, beauty is my daughter's almond shaped eyes and extreme intelligence is that she says "baby" when she looks at herself in the mirror.
All I know is that I love my daughter with a love so fierce that I would die protecting her.

Today is World Down syndrome awareness day. I want you to be aware that Down syndrome is merely a label. It is not what defines my daughter- it is not what decides what she will do with her life. Down syndrome is a part of her life, but more importantly, she is an individual with thoughts, emotions and love to give. Her life to me looks just as rich and promising as any other life. Parenting lends us no guarantees or promises.

Say you have a perfectly normal, typical child. You have no guarantee that your child will live another day- achieve anything in life- live free of health problems- be that perfect, successful adult that you're envisioning in your head. My child has Down syndrome- I am giving no guarantees about her life either. That label does not guarantee the rest of her life to lead a certain stereotypical path. Your child will have struggles- mine will have struggles...we both have to do our best and realize that the rest is out of our hands.Just like any other parent, I work hard every day to make sure that my daughter is equipped with what she needs to accomplish her very best in life. I expect great things out of her, but I acknowledge that her "great things" won't fall on anyone else's scale of greatness- she defines her own. If her very best includes getting an awesome job, walking gracefully, articulating clearly, perhaps getting involved in dancing or swimming. Great. I will love her so proudly for her every accomplishment.

If her very best includes slurred speech, awkward movements, a job that isn't deemed as awesome, the inability to achieve success in sports and such. Great. I will love her so proudly for every accomplishment because that will be her best. And that's all that matters. I will celebrate that she is talking, walking, working, and branching out to try new things. Her best is what I will cheer on and applaud her proudly for accomplishing.

My love for her her isn't dependent on what she will achieve or not. My love for her is unconditional and unfailing because she is the daughter that God entrusted me with. I am happy and content with the daughter he has sent me. I think she's amazing. She really is. I mean, have you met her? Have you seen her smile? Have you received a Chubbs hug or a sloppery kiss? Seriously, does life get better than being loved on by this little girl? I can't wait to celebrate life with her- through all the big and small milestones.
I want the best for her and I won't stop working with her and for her to help her achieve it. But I don't spend my days worrying about her functionality or her worth.

She is a person, an individual all her own. She receives and gives love- why isn't there a label for that? She isn't just like other people with Down syndrome. She is herself. She isn't a "they" or "them". She is just Addison- rocking out a life full of worth, love and joy unique to herself.I hope that I can help make a difference in this "skinny smart" world that we live in. I hope that Addison can walk around and be greeted with genuine smiles and kind expressions where ever she goes.
I hope that you realize that intelligence does not determine worth, beauty does not accelerate value and "useful to society" means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

God does not make mistakes, and if he chose to make a little girl for me with an extra chromosome and some limitations- so be it. I can live with my perfectly created baby...designed...just for me. How's that for incredible worth?
Like peanut butter on the fingers of a curious toddler, this post is begging to be shared.

10 comments:

Not a Perfect Mom said...

wonderful...
Happy World Down Syndrome Awareness Day!
got any more of that chocolate? yum...

Gwendolyn said...

So perfectly said, Deanna. And for what it's worth, Addison is beautiful. So extraordinarily beautiful. Every time I see her face pop up in my newsfeed on facebook, I just smile.

Julia said...

Very Beautiful!!

Jenny said...

Beautiful Deanna!

Suzanne said...

I think you really put it as well as anyone could. And I can hardly wait for another one of her sloppery kisses! What a sweetheart!

Tammi Cartwright said...

That is Awesomely written, Deanna. I was just telling Aaron that though I have never met you, I love to read your blogs. I can truly see your heart on here. And..as all have said...Addison is Beautiful!! Happy Down Syndrome Awareness Day, Addison! I have my FB status written in her honor!

Crazy Beautiful Love said...

Very beautiful. That's exactly how we feel; the proud mommies that we are of our desinger gene kiddos!
Addison has Down Syndrome.
Down Syndrome DOES NOT have Addison
-erin

patsy said...

beautiful post deanna...you are so right. addison is just addison and maggie is just maggie. our perfect gifts from HIM :)

Ilisa Ailts said...

She is simply priceless!

chambanachik said...

I came to your blog this morning through the blog party. I decided to browse more than just the first post, and I'm so glad I did. You have me in tears, in awe.

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