Any parent of a child with Down syndrome – or anyone who knows someone with Down syndrome – will tell you that person is a precious gift. While there may be some unique challenges that come with raising a child with Down syndrome, there are also constant rewards and joyous surprises.
Sherry knows this firsthand – her 2-year-old son, Gabe, has Down syndrome. While some people might look at him and see him as “different,” Sherry says she sees more of his similarities than his differences.
“Sometimes I forget that our son has Down syndrome,” she wrote. “It’s easy to be distracted by his 2-year-old tantrums, his mischievous smile and go-getter attitude.
“Gabe is kindhearted but stubborn. He immediately runs to check on his sister when she’s having a dramatic, I’m-4-and-the-world-is-over meltdown. He will climb onto your lap randomly and stretch his little fingers up to stroke your cheek, just to say, ‘I love you.’
“He also destroys things. Opens drawers, pulls things out, throws them on floor. When you confront him, he ducks his head and looks up from under his eyebrows with a sort of sorry smirk. He helps pick up, sometimes, or wanders off to destroy something else.
“He loves music; he’ll start to dance the second he hears it. He absolutely cannot resist participating in a round of ‘Itsy Bitsy’ or ‘Twinkle Twinkle,’ no matter how upset he may have been seconds before. Gabe can make music from anything, even the fireworks during the Fourth of July celebration.
“Sometimes I forget, because Gabe is just that — Gabe. When I look at him I don’t see Down syndrome, I see my son, Abi’s brother — a sweet, willful, determined little boy.”
But while Sherry can look past Gabe’s differences and see the beautiful things that make him unique, sometimes other people can’t.
While on a recent shopping trip, Sherry was checking out when the cashier said something that left her cold.
“I bet you wish you had known before he came out,” the woman spat. “You know they have a test for that now…”
Sherry was appalled and heartbroken.
“Shock, horror, hurt and fury coursed through my body,” she recalled. “I considered jerking her over the register and beating her senseless. I looked her up and down; I could take her.”
Instead, she decided to use her humor and quick wit to teach this girl a lesson that I’m sure she will never forget:
“I know right?!'” she told the cashier. “It’s so much harder to get rid of them once they come out. Believe me I’ve tried…”
The girl’s jaw dropped in shock and Sherry used that moment to make her point.
“What you’re saying is that it’s OK for me to kill him while he’s inside but not outside? In my book there isn’t a difference,” she said. “For the record, we knew everything about him during my pregnancy. He’s our son now, and he was our son then. There is no way in hell that I would let any harm come to either of my children, including during the time that they’re so ridiculously considered disposable.”
It’s heartbreaking to think that there are people out there who see a child’s life as disposable just because they are a little different or might be a little more difficult to raise. If people only knew the preciousness of the lives they were throwing away, I think they would see things much differently.
While Sherry is heartbroken that anyone would look at Gabe as “less than,” she says she understands where they are coming. That’s why she feels it’s so important to share her story.
“I’d forgotten that sometimes other people don’t immediately see Gabe,” she said, “they see a ‘downs kid.’ They see poor parents and a burdened sister. I sometimes forget until I glance up and see the pity in their eye or hear the ignorant comments in not-so-hushed whispers.
“I sometimes forget that it’s not their fault. They just don’t know.
“I sometimes forget that was me once too. What I knew about Down syndrome before we had Gabe was what I’d learned from my nursing text books. It was only enough to leave me sobbing hysterically and envisioning a listless, immobile, incapable child.”
Since then, Sherry has learned just how wrong those books were. Sharing her story and using whatever platform she is given allows her to help dispell the myths surrounding Down syndrome and educate people on the truth.
“It gives our community a chance to spread awareness, to educate the public, to debunk the myths that are out there and show our children in a different light,” she said. “It gives us a chance to move forward from just awareness to acceptance, so when we’re out in public and we are so taken by our children that we forget, that we aren’t reminded and shocked by the ignorance of others.
“Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our kids have Down syndrome. To us they’re just Gabe or AJ or Gavin or Max or Maddie. And that’s how it should be and will be if we continue to bring awareness and fight for acceptance.”
Help us spread Sherry’s message of hope. Share this!