Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Rattled.

on June 3, 2015

The man seemed nice enough while we were waiting for the elevator.  He was clearly a pharmaceutical rep, wandering around the medical offices, selling his wares.  He asked Ellie her name and, miracle of miracles, she shared it without bursting into tears.

As we entered the elevator, he furrowed his brow and said, “I don’t mean to be forward, but does she have…. problems?”

Oh Lordy.

“Oh!” I replied, “She has Down syndrome.”

“Well, that’s just… I mean, two people… You are normal, no issues, it isn’t right that you would have something like that.”

You son of a bitch.

Grace, my brain told me, give him grace.  He doesn’t know.  He cannot know.

“We love it!” I exclaimed, probably a little too brightly.  Tessa burst into tears.  He was quite clearly baffled and muttered something about how she’ll never be….  and then he stopped.  I continued to put on the cheerleader face and explained to him about how we have high hopes for her and the therapy and she is doing great.

The man literally ran off the elevator when the doors opened.

This is what I don’t understand:  Why is it acceptable to put any child into a box marked undesirable?  Why assume that anyone, but most especially an 18-month-old baby, is completely incapable of a valuable life?  And why the hell does it matter if she ends up smart or high-functioning or independent??  She very well might, but really, if she is happy… and believe me, she’s happy… I care about nothing else.

I live in an ivory tower of sorts, with loving supportive family and friends who genuinely follow our lead when it comes to raising our little lady.  If they feel anything to the contrary, we are blissfully unaware.  The crushing reality of how others around us perceive this life, just for tonight, has knocked me to my knees.

But just for tonight.

Tomorrow, the work continues.  Tomorrow, fresh-faced and perhaps well-rested, we carry on with the hope of acceptance and of inclusion and of love.  My prayer tonight is that he, that unsuspecting man in the elevator, is as rattled as I am.  I pray that we opened his mind and heart just a little bit.  I pray that Ellie remembers her mom’s response more than his words to me.  And I pray that somehow, we have made a little tiny difference.

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13 responses to “Rattled.

  1. Ruth S says:

    What a stunning display of ignorance. And lack of social consciousness not to stop after the initial misstep. Props to you for responding without calling him an SOB out loud. Can’t say more or it will contain too many not-nice words

  2. Jenna says:

    Wow. Who says things like that? Good for you for not throat punching him, because that was my gut instinct. You thought to give grace first, I don’t think I would have gone there first. What a blessing you are to be Ellie and Tessa’s mom and what a blessing to have them be your beautiful girlies.

  3. Cassie says:

    You are an amazing advocate! Never stop spreading acceptance and love and she will always know that you have her back- no matter what!!!

  4. Andrea Wdowiarz says:

    Ohhhh Maggie! I’m so sorry you had to experience that! Brava to you for responding to that boy – no “man” would be so ignorant and thoughtless – with dignity.
    I’ve read many times about people that have faced such ignorance. I have yet to experience it myself. I only hope that I will be as generous as you when I do.
    I’m so proud of you!

  5. I had my own experience of that level of ignorance recently and it knocked the wind out of me too. It’s astounding but it comes from a place of ignorance, not hate (I hope). Doesn’t mean it’s any less infuriating.

  6. seedpodlian says:

    I pity him mostly. What kind of life must he have had to think like that, to not know how hurtful those words would feel to you, to judge life and someone else’s value like that? I would pity him because maybe he actually has a neurological issue – some people are ‘highly functioning’ (ie what most would refer to as ‘normal’) but do not have an internal editor. I’ve known people like this- who honestly need to be taught appropriate responses. Maybe he’s on medication that impacts on him?

    I pity him because honestly I think his first resonse was to feel inadequate. He thought, ‘I couldn’t do that…’ He has learned somewhere that he is not capable of true love.

    I pity him because one day he may find himself the father of a person he feels incapable of loving. I hope by then he has learned to love himself more.

    I pity him because he views the world the way he views himself. That’s a terrible way to live.
    Maybe meeting you and your daughter is the pebble that starts the avalanche? Maybe grace does shine upon him and one day years from now you read a blog post written by a man who’s come full circle? We can hope right? It sucks to be an ambassador in a hostile land. The saying grace under fire comes to mind. The worst bit of course I would imagine is that this man lobbed a grenade at you when you didn’t know you were in battle.

    By the way, for the record and to balance it out: I’m a stranger and until today I’d never seen your daughter. Here’s my resonse to seeing her photo (let’s pretend we are in an elevator)…. ‘Oh my goodness if you don’t mind me saying your daughter is beautiful.’ I would then introduce myself to your daughter and if she cried I would say, ‘That’s ok it’s good to be shy sometimes.’ If she told me her name I would smile and introduce her to my daughter Ida May who doesn’t know how to say her name yet and who would most likely throw her hands up to shield her face from you. Kids hey. X

    • Maggie says:

      Thank you. 🙂 I do believe that she cried because she knew how tense my husband and I were feeling in that moment. She does tend to get emotional when other people in the room are.

      We continue to hope to start lots of avalanches. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Joanne says:

    Oh, I’m so sorry this happened. And I mean, other than a taco punch to the throat, what would have been the appropriate response – in front of your child, no less? Poor Tess. Poor Mama.
    Bravo to you for staying composed. Had he stepped into my elevator with that nonsense…?

    Jesus take the wheel.

    She’s getting soooo big and still so pretty. Screw that stupid man. To hell with him, I say.

  8. Joanne says:

    (“still” as in, yep, cute as a bug…and not still as in, expecting her looks to just implode any second, now… lol just wanted to clarify) ❤

  9. […] have run the gamut of responses to Down syndrome (remember this guy??).  Not all responses are negative.  Most, in fact, are quite benign, even a little sweet.  And […]

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