I’ve learned that curious things happen when you are on a coffee, carbs and sugar free diet. As I’ve been working on losing these pesky last five pounds, I’ve abstained from the food and drink that keep me on my toes, so to speak and, while water is healthy, let’s face it, it doesn’t have caffeine. And whether you’re raising children with special needs or not, most mamas need caffeine, am I right?
The other day at the pharmacy with the kids, a lady approached us and congratulated me on my outstanding career as a mother. With no coffee running in my veins, I said, “thank you,” completely unaware of her reasons to remind me about my blessings.
There is a time in life when you are so used to people staring at you that you don’t care (or even notice) anymore. It becomes a regular part of your life as the parent of a child, or children, with obvious disabilities, like Down syndrome.
This at the pharmacy lady wasn’t about to give up and started talking to me about my children’s super powers. Really? They must be wonderful with music, she said. I don’t want to be pessimistic, I responded, but I´ve been trying to learn to play the guitar since I was a kid. I told her that I’m now 36 years old and I’ve been downloading even paid apps on my phone in an effort to learn, and I still can’t figure it out. If my children had that specific super power, I’m sure they would’ve helped me, so I’m pretty sure they don’t. Yes, I’ve noticed their interest in musical instruments, but they have no magic skills when it comes to playing them.
Oh, then I’m sure they are extremely intelligent, she said. Well, they are intelligent. As human beings, we all are. We are rational beings most of the time, and the only time we lack of intelligence is when we disrespect our individuality in order to please someone else, in my humble opinion. My kids are naughty like most, go to school as others do, do their homework and love to learn, but no, nothing out of this world in terms of their level of intelligence. At that point, I saw that her Autism myths were getting all mixed up with her Down syndrome myths. And then things got awkward. Do I blame my lack of carbs and caffeine for my response? Not really.
She kept going and shared another couple of super powers my kids are supposed to have, that I haven’t discovered yet despite being their full time mother. “Lady, I’m so sorry,” I said. “But my kids have no super powers of any kind. I swear this is just an extra chromosome. I take full responsibility for every piece of them, and after ten years of raising a child with Down syndrome and seven years spent raising two of them, the only thing I’m willing to attribute to Down syndrome is the certainty to say that there is no diagnosis or syndrome that defines them or anyone else. They don’t have any of those super powers you are talking about.”
Okay, so my snappish response may have been a bit spurred by a lack of caffeine, carbs or sweets after months of trying to lose these stubborn five pounds, but I have an honest and mature conclusion about all of this. Losing weight after 35 years of age is not an easy task, just like being a mother in general. Loving and respecting our kids for who they are, and setting aside the fantasy and pretending that they have super powers can be hard. It’s our job though, to do both while letting people know we don’t expect our kids to be some idealized stereotype in order to be accepted and loved by us or anyone else.
Life keeps going on and on (with and without coffee), and yes, things have changed with both my body and mind as I raise my own children with special needs.