We went to a friend’s kid’s birthday party this weekend. It was great fun, always nice to cut Henry loose and let him play to his heart’s content with the other kids.
There were a couple people we knew at the party, but by and large the other party guests were strangers. Everyone wanted to see and talk about Cop because, well, babies get attention. They are cute and they are babies for such a short time. Everyone loves babies.
Inevitably the conversation goes like this:
“Oh he’s adorable!”
“What’s his name?”
“So cute! How old?”
There is this look, fleeting for some, but it registers on everyone’s face, of surprise and confusion because they are expecting me to say 3 months. Cop’s wrapped up and he’s not sitting and playing and he’s pretty little. If I didn’t know better I might guess he’s a big 3 months old too. And then there’s this awkward pause where I have to decide whether or not to explain.
I’m a big fan of putting it out there; I like people to know we have a child with Down syndrome and that it’s not a shameful or taboo topic. We aren’t ashamed, and I love to answer questions when people are brave enough to ask them (I never was in my past life), but I don’t want to make it the focal point of every interaction we have with people. Copley has DS, but DS isn’t Copley.
So the first 3 or 4 times I ignored the confused look and the awkward pause and moved right on with the conversation, because it’s not an issue, not really, unless people make it an issue, and I don’t have to explain myself or make excuses for my kid.
But, I’m not perfect, and after repeating this conversation with the mother of the MOST ADORABLE 4 month old who was sitting and playing a little bit of… I don’t know what… something (jealousy? disappointment?) crept in and I went to Josh for the “he’ll get there in his own time” pep talk.
I know he will; I’m his biggest fan, his coach and his cheerleader. I’m not disappointed in my son at all but sometimes when I’m outside our bubble and I’m faced with the reality of developmental delays I get a bit discouraged. It’s hard. It’s frustrating, more on his behalf than anything else. He so badly wants to do things that his little body can’t execute and it makes him mad. We work hard sometimes for marginal gains. I know Cop will get there when he gets there, but sometimes a little pep talk helps. (And I frequently need pep talks regarding the toddler monster too, parenting is tough man.)
Josh peps me up, rights the ship, and I go back to the party and the very next thing that happens is someone asks me “How old?” and this time, I’m not sure why, I said, “Seven months, but he’s got Down syndrome”
It was a jerk thing to say. I made this woman, who I liked very much actually, feel bad and she stammered “I didn’t know that!”
Of course she didn’t. She was just being nice and making small talk. The shame is on me, entirely here.
Why did I do that? I think I was feeling judged and defensive. I’m a confident woman, and I very rarely worry what others think about us. I never did with Henry, so why do I give it a second thought with Copley? Our child’s development isn’t a reflection on us as parents, and even if it were, Cop is an amazing little dude.
I’ve been thinking about it for days. I think I’m going to forgive myself and let it go. Try to learn and grow and be better. But be kind to myself too.