Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Lesson #28: I wish it wasn’t on the news (sort of).

This is part of the 31 for 21 Blog Challenge!  We’re almost to the end……

Frequently, news articles pop up on my Newsfeed on Facebook with headlines like Couple with Down Syndrome Chosen as Prom King and Queen or Man with Down Syndrome Opens Restaurant.  I love these celebrations of people’s accomplishments.  They are “feel good” stories.  They are inspirational, barrier breaking, door-opening.

They also make me sad.

Articles like the above represent a weird paradox for me.  I am uplifted by them because they are a reminder that there are no limits to what Tessa can do.  I’m annoyed by them because if society would just stop seeing her as less than, they wouldn’t have to be news stories in the first place.

Celebration and a heavy sigh in the same breath.

I want Tessa to be accepted by her peers and I don’t want someone on the Nightly News to think that acceptance merits a news story.

I want Tessa to do whatever she is capable of and I don’t want anyone to be surprised when she does.

I realize that we are not there yet and so the new stories are necessary.  I’m thankful that the message being spread is that people with Down syndrome can (whatever).  I know that when we first got the diagnosis, there was a tremendous amount of comfort for my husband in watching a YouTube video of a boy with Down syndrome receiving a college acceptance letter.  He probably watched it 400 times during the first week After.  I just hope that someday, this becomes so commonplace that we can celebrate in the same way we would for our typical daughter – with a dinner out at Chili’s and an extra scoop of ice cream for dessert.

Someday.

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And now, a little group selfie (are these called “groupies” yet?) fun…

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Lesson #21: Unintentional Ableism

Ableism – a set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.

We would love to see Tessa break down barriers, exceed expectations, go beyond anyone’s wildest predictions of what she will accomplish in her lifetime.  John and I have no preconceived notions for what she will do with her life. Full inclusion through high school?  Why not?  Go to college?  OK!  Open a restaurant like Tim’s Place?  Dandy!  Star in a TV show like Glee?  Great!  We set no limits on her potential and watch to see what happens.  Hopefully, that is a powerful force in her life that pushes her to do her best.

She might not do any of those things.

The reality of our future with Tessa (and with any child, really) is that we have no way to predict what will come as she grows.  It is certainly our responsibility, as parents, to teach our children to live to their full potential.  However, we cannot pass judgement on what that potential is.

There is still value in the life of an adult who bags groceries at the local supermarket.

There is still value in the life of an adult who lives with his parents and takes public transportation to a minimum-wage job.

There is still value in the life of an adult who “makes your french fries.”

(On a side note, I just need to vent for one second about the statement “well, someone has to make my fries.” There is nothing wrong with making french fries.  And yes, someone really does have to make them for you unless you plan on climbing into the drive-thru window at McDonald’s and making them yourself.  So why do we need to use this as a sarcastic comment to mock a person’s intellectual ability?  Just wondering.)

Being successful has nothing to do with money.  It has nothing to do with power.  It has nothing to do with influence or intelligence or ability or stuff.  It has everything to do with abounding love, kindness to the most unkind people, friendship, compassion, and contributing in the best way that one can.

I get that now.

Truth.

This is part of the 31 for 21 Blog Challenge!

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