With school starting back, I started thinking about all the new; new classrooms, new teachers, new routines and, especially, new friends. We have a real opportunity at the beginning of so much new to start instilling new good habits, too. We can get a bedtime in place, a better dinner routine after a summer off, oh yeah, better teeth brushing routines and we can even encourage our kids (and ourselves) to be kinder humans with adding a routine of “family sharing”.
Here’s a great way to share:
If we were at a store and we saw a puppy running scared in the parking lot, appearing to be lost, we would call out with our favorite noises to let the puppy know we are nice. We would reach out and not hesitate to pick the puppy up. Would we hold the pup at a distance? No, we would give a sweet embrace of reassurance. We’d look around for anyone that might claim the lost pup and then worry about getting him/her back home or giving the fur baby a new home. We wouldn’t research on the internet what the puppy would need, we’d already know; Puppy food, water, a bed, exercise and loads of love. Simple.
With my child with Down syndrome, I expect the same. While he won’t be lost, he does need your love, your encouragement and your acknowledgement of his presence. As his mom, I am responsible for his medical needs. You don’t have to worry about what medication he takes or when, you don’t need to know how a g-tube works (unless you want to, I am always happy to show anyone who is interested), you don’t even need to know about his extra chromosome. He is a beautiful boy who deserves this life and to be included. He just needs to know you love him and you can treat him like any child you would come across. He should never feel alone. I am his mom, I am a guaranteed security blanket, but we know we all need even more than our mom's can give. And when he goes to school, I can't always be there. I need peace, too.
Hudson is NOT fragile. Actually, he is really strong. He likes to play, spin, swim, swing, wrestle and even breakdance. As he grows, he’s only getting more strong. He might not play the way your kids play, but having friends will encourage him to learn from them. I have placed him in a setting where kids are present. He’s using his sippy cup more often and better, too , he’s dancing to music, he’s trying to eat more and he’s learning to play with other children.
Talk with your children, just like this. I promise they can learn from Hudson or any child with a disability or different ability, just as he/they can learn from your child. These life lessons will carry their whole lives, both kids benefit. It will create opportunities that will begin to mold who they will become. Extra kindness goes a long way. It’s just as easy to be kind as it is to be mean, but meanness cuts deep and is so unnecessary. Even a non-verbal child knows the difference. I am raising him to be kind, too; but he is really teaching us in a profound way.
Your child should know that Hudson didn’t ask to be born with his extra chromosome, just as the puppy didn’t want to be lost and alone. However, we have a true responsibility to both. They both have a need to live their best lives. So why is it so easy for one to help the puppy, but then use the “r” word or only see my son’s disability? Honest answer: it starts at home with you. Valuing a person, the whole person, not a disability, skin color, religious view, political party or any other difference is the only way we can move forward. We ALL have purpose and value. You never know, maybe one day you’ll have a family member who is born with the same extra chromosome my son was born with, who will you be? It does not take us having this in front of our face to learn from Hudson or to want be better people or raise nicer children; it takes a step of loving no matter what… and passing it on. Again, simple.
Kindness is free. Changing the words you use costs nothing. Cheering for the success of another has no dollar amount attached. Teaching your children all of this… EXTRA Priceless.
EXTRA EXTRA: Hudson Jag Hartman was selected for the upcoming NDSS Times Square Video for his 4th year in a row. Over 2,400 submissions and NDSS selected 500 for the 2022 NYC Jumbotron Show. Join the NDSS (National Down Syndrome Society) Facebook page on September 17th. The LIVE from NYC will begin at 8:30 am (CT). If you wish to join our team, we are “Team Hudson The Strong”. Donations can be made to: https://give.ndss.org/team/430719