There is a simple, strange question that we parents of children with Down syndrome don’t get asked as much as we should: How are people with Down syndrome?
This is because usually, people already have an established perception of how they are, how they look, how they behave, the things that they can do and those that they can’t. Many of these myths and prejudices started years ago, as a result of the lack of services that limited the potential of kids with this condition. Other myths have been created by us, their parents, who many times have an overprotective tendency that limits them in many ways, instead of helping them succeed.
So in reality, how are people with Down syndrome?
Several days ago, a mature man approached me in the grocery story. His first question was if I was the biological mother of my kids. I said yes. His second question was if they were twins. I said no. After that, he made a very personal comment. “Listen, I’m sorry to bother you with these questions, but in a month I’ll become grandfather for the fifth time. But this time is different. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m going to be able to help my son and my daughter-in-law, as their unborn child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.”
Then I realized why he was so curious about my children. I offered him to talk for a couple of minutes while I completed my shopping. We walked behind Emir and Ayelén while they ran to get items for me. I thought he would start the conversation by sharing how hard it was for him and his family to expect the unexpected, but instead he surprised me with a simple question:
How are people with Down syndrome?
And like any other children who have been raised with love and respect, they learn to do their best every day. They are able, not disabled, and all they need is the opportunity to demonstrate it to us.
So we continued to walk around the grocery store as I explained my pride, joy, and excitement.
He took my hand and said, “I’ve learned something today. People with Down syndrome are like everyone else. Your description applies to every one of my children, and also to my grandchildren. All of them, alike and so different at the same time. Nothing to be afraid of.”
I wished him luck for the day of his grandson’s birth. He said goodbye to Emir and Ayelén with a big hug and smile, and told them, “Guys, I have to congratulate you. You are doing an awesome job with your mommy.”
And yes, they actually are doing a great job with me. Not because they have one extra chromosome, but because they are my kids, the perfect kids God gave me, the kids who I would never trade for anything or anyone else in the world.