In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I’m raising a toast to my nearly 21-month old son, Harrison. While raising a child with special needs has not been the easiest ride, I don’t think parenting is ever simple. However, despite the ups and downs, you have shown me you can do so much more than I ever expected you to do, and you’re not even two.
When I found out prenatally that Harrison would have Down Syndrome, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I cried, I researched, and I wrote. I recently found a note I wrote to myself around that time, listing all the things Harrison wouldn’t be able to do because he would have Down Syndrome. Ironically, one of the things on the list referred to water. “He may never be able to swim,” I wrote. Harrison started swimming lessons this past summer at around 15 months old and can’t get enough. He kicks his legs and moves his arms the moment he sees drops of water, let alone a pool. He got excited yesterday while we were washing the dog because the water droplets hitting his little head might have signaled the presence of a swimming pool nearby.
I was afraid that because of his disability, Harrison would look nothing like us or act differently than his mom and dad. He is the spitting image of his father. Replace Harrison’s blonde hair with brown, and a mini-me of my husband stands in front of you. On my list of pre-Harrison Down Syndrome fears, I wrote, “He may not be sarcastic like his father.” (Looking back, I have no idea why this was one of my dreams for my child, but you can’t change the past.) Just the other day, I asked Harrison to come to me. He doesn’t yet walk, but has this one-armed crawl that takes him from one room to another. As he started to approach me, I said, “Faster, faster,” and he crawled with vigor. He got within arms-reach and turned around, looking back with a smirk. Lack of sarcasm concerns gone, I wonder what other accomplishments on my “fear list” he will soon complete.
I took my Down Syndrome-fear list and hid it in a dark corner of the spare bedroom closet. I don’t want to see it for many, many years. I’ve learned there is no need to be afraid of what my child may or may not do, I need to embrace how lucky I am to have a spunky, charming child, “disability” or not.
Here’s to Harrison. You light up a room when you enter. I’ve never met anyone with your charisma who can cause people to stop me in the grocery store so they can smile and goo at you. Despite your down syndrome, you raise me UP. I love you, Harrison. My life could never be the same without you.