When someone stares a moment too long at my daughter with a scowling face, I crossly wonder-why?
When fellow shoppers do a double take into the passenger section of my grocery cart I can't imagine what has caught their eye other than the one article of junk food that I tried to hide under all the veggies.
When a well meaning friend exclaims "EVEN Addison should be able to do this/understand this/behave like this"- I wonder why they feel the need to differentiate her in such a way.
When we're at the doctor and they give me an extra set of risks and warnings for my daughter that I don't get for my son, it catches me off guard.
Because the truth is- I forget.
I forget that I'm supposed to be mourning a defect in the eyes of society because I am too busy loving the busy little girl in my care.
I forget that I was seemingly judged with a mistake because I'm too busy marveling in the beauty and perfection of her every chromosome.
I forget that people feel sorry for me because I'm too busy living the life of mommy that is far more wonderful than I ever dreamed.
I forget that the "different" is supposed to be uncomfortable and sad because the different in my life is the encore of happiness in being a mother.
The truth is- I don't care that my daughter has Down syndrome. I don't care if you think that that is something horrible and pathetic. I don't care if you secretly mock the concept of being "slow". I don't care that you are thankful every day that your child isn't cursed with a "problem".
Because I know better.
I know that the plucky little girl with the waterspout blonde ponytail is amazing. I know that the personality that we're discovering in her layer by layer is much like a thinly layered chocolate cake that ends with a creamy fudge of goodness. I know that those almond eyes are exactly the same color as her daddy's and her brother's even though the shape is different. I know that her tiny hands have our large and awkward hands wrapped around her tiniest of fingers. I know that her legs in braces are strong enough to take her wherever she wants to go.
When her head tilts down and a shy smile breaks out over her face, I can see her feeling emotions just like I do. When she silently stares, studying her surroundings curiously, I can see her processing the world in her own way- just like any little girl. When I hear her unique bubble of laughter gleefully explode in response to whatever catches her fancy, I can observe her enjoying life- just like any two year old.
For a minute yesterday a memory of the fear surprised me. This fear used to be the only thing I saw when I looked at her. Now it appears from time to time whenever I find myself frustrated by how long she makes me wait before she responds. Will she have friends? If her peers are mean to her will she be aware? How much will she grow up? Will she live to be an adult? Will she have a happy life?
Wait, where did this come from? I forget why I'm supposed to worry about this.
I was standing next to the bathtub, encouraging her to come for her already drawn bath, and she stood in the hallway, mutely observing my sign of "bath" and my motions for her to come.
"Addison come take your bath"
No response. Is she just being stubborn, or does she not understand?
"Please Addison. It's all ready."
It's when I begin to doubt that she brings out the big guns. Exuberant smile, overflowing laughter, waving hands held out in response to mine, and running- RUNNING across the long hallway to throw herself into my arms. She looks up to me and signs "bath".
My hold tightens around her and I breathe in her very essence. She tucks her head up under my chin and nestles her body tightly close to mine. She relaxes with the trust and assurance that I will take care of her.
Addison has all the typical little girl tricks up her sleeve. She pretends not to understand something or waits extra long whenever it's something she's not interested in. Don't be fooled (like I still am occasionally). If you mention the word chocolate, her response time is cut in half.
So yes, I might occasionally see a flicker of past doubts (mostly when Addison is trying to pull a fast one), but it's still not enough to make me remember why I should be sad. That flicker dies faster than a single lit match in a July thunderstorm in the middle of the ocean.
Because I'm way too busy holding that warm body full of life and love, praising her for her many accomplishments, and sending up prayers of thankfulness that she is mine.
If my worst complaint as a parent that I need to work on my patience (and discernment), well then I'd say I'm pretty blessed.
A label can be overwhelming- a diagnosis can be scary. But if you look around you with an open heart, you will see beauty all around you. Even in those who are different than you.
Because at the end of the day?
That person is just that,
And just maybe, you can forget about all that other stuff too.