The Gift of Parenting a Child with "A Little Extra"
- Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Both confirmed what I’d seen from the beginning and continue to see today. Jonny has a way of breaking the ice before others can think too long about their response to a child who is – well, just a little different. Then he brings out the best in them.
In fact, I bet some people would rather spend a day with Jonathan than with the experts who comment on his right to exist.
There’s Princeton professor/ bioethicist Peter Singer, urging the right (or duty) of parents to terminate the life of a disabled child – up to 28 days after birth. Or Bob Edwards, world-renowned embryologist, predicting it will soon be a “sin” (his term) for parents to give birth to children with disabilities.
This would seem a giant step back for our enlightened society, which a generation ago ceased banishing children with Down syndrome to institutions, making it possible for them to grow into productive members of society. In a culture working overtime to root out prejudice and prosecute hate, these “expert” voices sound suspiciously Supremacist.
But maybe it’s just that they suffer from their own undiagnosed disabilities – blinded by a caste system of individuals based on I.Q., educability, and earning potential. Paralyzed within their “perfect” paradigms.
Having a child with Down syndrome has helped me see there’s infinitely more to life than intelligence, beauty and “perfection.” It’s also taught me that not everything can be measured in dollars and cents – the benefits of full-inclusion extend beyond a child with Down syndrome to his classmates, teachers, family and friends.
Before Jonny’s birth, I’d prepared announcements with a line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning: “God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” I sent them proudly, adding a note about his extra chromosome and our great love for him.
He’s been a gift I never would have thought to ask for, bringing lessons I never knew I needed to learn. The greatest surprise is this: Our life together has been less about my helping him reach his potential than about him helping me reach mine.
Sometimes when we’re in a museum or a mall, in the middle of a good laugh, I catch someone off-guard, looking uncomfortable and standoffish. I know that as long as we live some will see Jonny as having a little less. I’ve learned he has a little more. And so does our world because he’s here.
Barbara Curtis is a wife, mother, author, and freelance writer who went on to have another “normal” daughter, then adopted three babies with Down syndrome – now 12, 11, and 7. She blogs daily at http://www.mommylife.net/ and invites you to enjoy a Web Album she created last Mother’s Day to celebrate mothers and children with Down syndrome.
**Featured Photos: Catherine and Nolan, Christie and Carly, Susan and Duncan, Kimberly and Charlie. Taken from Barbara Curtis' Web Album.
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