“We can only know that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” Leo Tolstoy
Last week, I met with a new babysitter. I always have a lot of anxiety about having new people come into my house in general, but more so with Mia. I’m simultaneously trying to educate about Down syndrome while explaining that she really isn’t that difficult to care for.
So, we were talking about Mia, and she very genuinely asked if there was anything specific she should be aware of when watching Mia. I thought about it and realized I was legitimately stumped. It was one of those moments when Down syndrome seemed like a big scary thing, but when I tried to explain how Mia was different than any other almost-two-year-old girl, I had a hard time coming up with something. It was actually sort of comical. I was sitting there wracking my brain to explain how she’s different. I came up with three things.
1. “Well, she can’t walk yet…but she can…but she doesn’t think she can.” She said, “Okay.”
2. “She doesn’t talk yet, but she understands what you’re saying so don’t let her fool you. I’ll show you a couple signs in case she uses them.” She nodded and smiled. “Okay. Sounds good.”
3. “She has a little separation anxiety, so she cries a bit more when we leave.” She said, “Yeah, that happens a lot.”
That was it, and it didn’t sound all that different from other kids. In fact it sounded like a lot of other kids.
I remembered working myself up for this talk. I was going to say, “Mia has Down syndrome,” and then the ceiling was going to cave in on us, and the world was going to end, and the sitter would run from the house. She really didn’t seem all that worried at all.
Our life with her is so typical. I know this. I know it’s not a whole lot different, especially at age two, but I still expect the pity looks, the worried faces, or the “I’m so sorry’s.” I brace myself for them.
When I talked to her some more, I started to describe Mia apart from the disability and the delays. I started to talk about what she really needs to know. For example: She climbs like a mountain goat so watch her like a hawk. She is fast and sneaky. She’s sassy and knows the word “no,” but she doesn’t always listen. She likes snuggles before bedtime. Even if she’s sad, she always wants hugs. Watch the kisses, they can be slobbery. She loves a good selfie if she’s in a bad mood. Being a goofball cheers her up.
The more I think about her, the more the Trisomy 21 is so secondary to her. I know that some people will only see the extra chromosome, but she’s so much more than that. I’m still learning that for other people to see past it, I have to see past it as well. I have to notice the more important things, like slobbery kisses.
I’m not afraid to say I’m still learning. I will always be learning.