“Why fit in when you were born to stand out,” says the sensible Dr. Seuss.
This quote fits this year’s World Down Syndrome Day well.
On Saturday, March 21st, the entire world will celebrate people living with an extra 21st chromosome who inspire us every day. On this day, people across the globe are taking part in their own activities to raise awareness for issues related to Down syndrome like education, special needs laws, and social stigma.
Here in Mandeville, the Up 21 Foundation – a foundation committed to supporting educational opportunities concerning Down syndrome – is putting on A Walk in the Park fundraiser, a ¼ mile walk followed by an afternoon of music, food, and fun. If you can’t make the walk, another popular form of awareness has been the 21 Random Acts of Kindness movement where people do 21 acts of kindness on March 21st, like pack a lunch for a homeless person or leave spare change at a laundry mat.
World Down Syndrome Day means many different things to us.
To me, it’s a day I celebrate my son’s uniqueness.
I asked another mother of a child with Down syndrome, a mother I often go to for moral support and advice, what World Down Syndrome Day meant to her and this is what she said :: “When I think about it, I think about how ignorant I was before Caleb’s birth. The bottom line is our children are truly no different than any other; they bring us the same love and joy other parents experience with any child. I think the biggest difference is we have to work a little bit harder for it. Our children may not become doctors or lawyers, however they will be happy and reach a personal success.”
When I read what my friend has to say about our children, it put into perspective for me that we never know our child’s full potential, developmentally challenged or not. Not every PERSON will become a doctor or lawyer; some are photographers and musicians. Not every PERSON gets married and has children; some have long term relationships or are happy being single. For me, before Jonah was born, I set expectations for him that met my needs, not his. Those were unfair expectations. Perhaps we do that for all of our children. Having a child with Down syndrome has helped me see the truth – I truly cannot compare him to others. I have stopped setting unattainable expectations for my children, and Jonah has given me a gift I never knew I was missing, the gift of being happy with the small victories in life.
“My goal,” my friend hopes “would be for us to break down barriers between our children and others, for other parents to embrace our children and not fear the differences,” because… if I may add… we are all born with differences.
For information about our NOLA Down Syndrome Moms group, please visit our Facebook page.
Lauren is one of three moms to create NOLA Down Syndrome Moms, an outreach of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater New Orleans. Born in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge, Lauren found her way back to New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. She graduated with a Masters in English Writing and Rhetoric from the University of New Orleans and married in 2010. As a steward for philanthropic agencies since adolescence, Lauren has finally found her passion and home in advocating for moms and their children with Down syndrome in the Greater New Orleans area.