Thursday, March 19, 2015

Our Family Dialogue

Addison changes our family dialogue.

The thing that I love most about a good book is fast paced dialogue between characters who are remarkably different. There is the withdrawn, quiet young twenty-something, the outspoken mom of five, the peacemaker who spends her days in nature, and the stay-at-home dad who used to be in the Marines.

Each character brings with it a wealth of history and emotional memory. As these characters interact, personalities are shaped through simple sentences in response to someone else's sentences. Histories are brought to light. Opinions are unraveled. Their personhood is revealed for all the world to see.

As differences are mulled over, starkly contrasted through hilarious or probing dialogue, it makes a story that you can't tear your eyes away from. You KNOW these people. You need to know MORE about what they are going to do/say next. Words come out of the characters' mouths and you grin "that is SO April!" And by the end, you are aware in which the differences and shared experiences in the book subtly changed the perceptions of the characters as a whole.

This morning I was reading such a book, and I couldn't help but think what richness Addison has added into our family dialogue. You have the hard-working landscaper dad, the creative musing type mom, the impatient 3 year old ready to conquer the world, the quiet 1 year old who loves to give hugs and tease his siblings, and the 5 year old who brings new meaning to sassy sweetheart.
As individuals, we are a little boring and perhaps even horribly predictable. But added together as a group into our own family dialogue, we create a story worth reading. A story that wouldn't be the same without our sassy sweetheart. Her difference from the rest of us adds an extra layer of richness that is difficult to even describe.

Dad: "It's been a long day! Who wants to read a book?"
Mom: "Oh that's a great idea! I would love to read out loud some more of our chapter series."
Carter: "NO! I want to read the DIGGER BOOK!"
Eli: (steals the pile of books and runs off chortling
Addison: "Ice cream cone!"

Addison is rather one-track minded about 3 things: 1. Ice cream cones 2. Papa's House (where she usually gets an ice cream cone when we go there once a week) 3. T (who to my knowledge doesn't bribe with ice cream cones...but to the extent Addison learns from her I almost wouldn't care if she did)

But back to the point...the conversation of our lives with her added to the mix is always shaken up to the point where interest is added. Random difference is inserted at odd points. Who doesn't want to break up a boring discussion on reading to start drooling over the perfect ice cream cone? Her personality shines through with her limited vocabulary in a way where she doesn't need a lot of words to work her charm.
She makes our family extraordinary. Not because of what she can do...or what she can't do. Not because of what labels she carries or what labels she doesn't carry. Rather because of who she is as a person. She makes no apology for who she is. We take her cue and accept her the same way even when it means that almost every conversation ends with mentioning an ice cream cone...or Papa's House...or T.
She is different. But then again, so are the rest of us. We are all different from each other in a tangled mix of angles and curves and dots and stripes that somehow tie together our unique family dialogue.

Oftentimes I ask myself-- is her specific difference because of Down syndrome? Or is it just her personality? Does Down syndrome shape her personality? Or is her personality shaped around Down syndrome?

I honestly don't know. But this Saturday is World Down Syndrome Day, and as I think of celebrating, I think of Addison. I don't know how to celebrate Down syndrome as a whole. I don't know how to sum it up into one simple blog post with 3 outstanding bullet points, because to me-- Down syndrome isn't a unit. It's a word that describes countless of individuals.

The individual with Down syndrome swirling up the dialogue of our life with interest and difference is Addison. So we celebrate Addison. We celebrate the extra chromosome and the wide mouthed laugh and the warm hugs and the determined eye brow thing that she does when she's fiercely concentrating. We celebrate 5 years of memories, 5 years of loving, 5 years of milestones achieved. We celebrate our sister, our daughter, our "ice cream cone" enthusiast. We celebrate difference but we also celebrate sameness and we don't try to make the one into another.
And we sit back and enjoy the spark added to our family dialogue. I can't wait to see how our dialogue changes and grows through the years. Especially with Addison as a part of it.
Also in honor of WDSD, the kindle version of my novel Motherhood Unexpected is on sale for $2.99 (normally $5.99). You don't want to miss this sale! It only lasts through Sunday...and it is the perfect read to celebrate welcoming difference into the dialogue of your life. If you have already read it? I would love you forever if you would share it in honor of this weekend. My thoughts on a new diagnosis have become complicated and summed up in this book. So this is my contribution to awareness this year.

Happy reading. Happy sharing.

And Happy World Down Syndrome Day. We will probably celebrate...with some ice cream cones... (-;

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