Can you imagine, you are holding what you believe to be the most perfect child in the world. She has blonde hair like her mother, hazel eyes like her father, and the cutest little dimple on her chin. Now, the lady in the next room also has her “perfect” child and recognizes that your baby does not have brown curls like her new bundle of joy… “Oh, I am so sorry,” she says! SORRY FOR WHAT? Sorry because your child is different from hers? Sorry that she believes her baby to be superior to yours due to one characteristic? Sorry because she does not understand having a child with blonde hair?
Can you imagine how you would feel? Immediately you would jump to defend your precious new gift or perhaps you would be so shocked that you could not even find the words to say. Are there even words to say? To need to apologize, one would have to have done something wrong. In order to empathize, one would have to have experienced something similar. To need either of these responses, there would need to be something wrong!!!
Of course, this situation would not happen in the newness of a labor and delivery wing so I will go beyond the color of their hair. Moving forward, let’s look at high school graduation. The little blonde girl graduates at the top of her class while the brown haired baby with perfect curls finishes her high school career among the middle range of her classmates. While the blonde may deserve congratulations for her hard work, the brunette would not expect sympathy. She completed her studies and did so respectfully. How would you feel, if someone offered sympathy because your child was “just average?”
What about glasses? Braces? Stuttering? Speech difficulties? A freckle? Birth mark? Do you apologize to the parents of these children? Do you say, “I am so sorry that your child is different than mine?” Do you say, “I’m sorry that your child has less the ‘perfect’ traits?”
Of course, you don’t because that would not be NICE! That would not be ACCEPTABLE!
When my granddaughter was born, we all stood around the nursery noting every little finger, every little toe, every cry, every smile just as the other families did for their new additions. We were elated that she would soon come into our home and brighten our lives forever. We prayed together when she was on oxygen. We leaned on one another when they mentioned flying her to a larger hospital. We waited together to hear the doctors tell us that she was going to be okay. And she is! She is better than okay. She continues every day to laugh and learn, grown and amaze us. She is PERFECT!
Yet, for some reason, when one of the family says, “she has Down’s” the immediate response, without exemption is “Oh, I’m sorry…” and we want to yell “WHY?” We are not sorry that your child has blue eyes or straight hair. We are not sorry that your child has freckles. We are not sorry that every time your child learns something new the whole family does not celebrate. We are not sorry that your child’s first steps or clearance from a heart doctor did not send you straight to the bakery to pick out a cake. Instead, we are thankful that your child is perfect in your eyes and would like for you to know that Gloria is perfect in ours.
There is nothing wrong with her. She is in excellent health and is moving along the developmental chart at a steady pace. The pace may not be the same of your child, but your child’s pace is not at the same pace as someone else’s child. And they are NOT SORRY!
I get it, you may not know what to say. You may have heard scary things about Down’s Syndrome. You may think that this is some form of life threatening situation and that your heart felt “I’m sorry,” refers to the inevitable loss of her ability to have any quality of life. I get it. You do not know about it so maybe your apology is for your lack of awareness. I do not know a thing about raising a child with red hair. I have no clue about freckles and sensitive skin. But I am not sorry for the parents who have children with red hair because this is a beautiful characteristic of their perfect child. I feel no need to stare or apologize but, if I really felt the need, I would ask respectful and caring questions like, “what brand of sunscreen do you use to protect his/her beautiful skin tone?” or “what type of conditioner makes their hair shine like that?” I could even accept questions like, “Do you have extra health care concerns because of this characteristic?”
To apologize to a parent because of a single characteristic that makes their child unique or special is not only disrespectful but also hurtful. Families of children with Down’s Syndrome are simply families with children. Please think before you speak and, if you cannot compliment or ask a question tastefully, then please just smile.
Normal is unattainable for anyone! Special is in our DNA!