Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Elephant in the Room

One of the most exciting things I've been reading lately is Bethany's blog over at Life With Bubba, Chicky & Nika. Bethany and her husband have recently added to their family by adopting a child with Down syndrome from Russia. It's been amazing to follow their journey over the last few months, and they finally returned home last week with their gorgeous new daughter, Nika. A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in the lunch room at work with a table of my co-workers (people I don't work directly with, but know peripherally), and as one of the guys is from Russia, I happened to mention that a friend was in Russia adopting a child. The conversation then shifted to Down syndrome and the desire by Westerners to adopt children with disabilities from other countries. Not being a native English-speaker, he asked, "What is Down syndrome?" I'm sure that in his own language he would know exactly what it is, but I began to describe some of the usual issues with Ds, such as heart defects, learning delays, fine and gross motor delays... Everyone was looking at me, and I could just feel the word hanging in the air--I felt them waiting for me to say it. You know the word--it's the one that has a big slash through it in the box at the top of my blog. The word that would probably have made him go, "Ohhhh, I understand," clarifying everything quickly and easily, but I didn't say it. I just left it at that. It was a very positive conversation overall, but I'm not sure he knew exactly what kind of disability I was talking about. The rest of my lunch companions did, and I think that they learned something. I do try not to get on a soap box when I talk to others about Down syndrome, but I like to try to create some understanding about it. I can't help wondering if my overactive imagination and hyper-sensitivity had me thinking that they all were waiting for me to say the word, though, and I wonder if this is something I'm going to be paranoid about for the rest of my life.

On another note, I was shopping in a store in the mall today with Samantha in her stroller. Samantha was so miserable with me not letting her out to run around and get into trouble, and I found that the only way to keep her happy was to park her in front of a rack of clothes and let her play with them on their hangers while I shopped nearby. Samantha reached out for a green blouse and said, "Green!" (she's known her colors for a while now), and another woman shopping that same rack was absolutely floored. Shocked, she said, "Wow, how old is she?" I responded that she's two and a half. The woman said, "She's not even my daughter, and I'm so proud of her!" hehehe. The thing that especially made my heart swell at this was that I think the woman was referring to any child at that age, and was not acknowledging (or noticing) Down syndrome as a factor. Is that unrealistic of me to think? Also, perhaps the woman thought Samantha was younger than she is because she doesn't speak intelligibly. *sigh* Maybe I'm naive.

Just for fun, here's a squidgy newborn pic of Samantha...

6 comments:

amy flege said...

woo hoo on her knowing her colors. we are proud of her here too! we can match colors! my cousin works at barnes and noble and got ahold of those card for me!! woohoo!!
sweet baby picture!!!!

Carol N. said...

Becca, I'm never sure if it's apparent to others that Aidan has Down syndrome - sometimes I look at him curiously and think "I might not even know it!" There comes a point, I guess, when it's all about the child, and not about the label.

Does that make sense? I'm not sure.

Michelle said...

Way to go Sammi! You are doing an awesome job:)

Tracy said...

I am so impressed Sammi! Wow! I love it! Yeah, I think we all in the world of DS will forever be sensitive to the "word". People use it so freely and it makes me crazy! Love your blog, BTW! Sammi is so sweet and fun to read about.

Jeanette said...

Sweet picture!!! I am impressed with a two year old knowing her colors. You handled the cross-cultural conversation well. I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for popping my mine! I appreciate your comments. Come by and leave your name for my Thanksgiving give-away. =0)

Bethany said...

I hope you opened that man's eyes to something, no matter what it was. :)

And awesome on the colors Sammi!