31 Oct Acknowledging the pink elephant in the room.
Estimated reading time 5 minutes.
Yesterday Ariel and I went to our first party that wasn’t with family. It was a Halloween party at Ariel’s daycare center. As I have said before, I love our daycare and feel very welcome and catered for. The management and staff go out of their way to help us and the parents in our section accept and include us as “normal”.
Our daycare also has a pre school so the party was quite big with lots of kids (and their families) that we don’t normally see. It was busy and Ariel was quite overwhelmed at times. Even though her uncle Greg came along for support she did not want to leave my arms for long. In saying that, she did very well and after a while she relaxed, got her face painted and we went outside to sit on the ground and play.
This is when I got a chance to sit down myself and relax and observe the party.
Obviously we are always going to be the “Different” ones on the crowd. Ariel has Down syndrome. There is a 92% abortion rate so we all know that 92% of people who find out their baby has down syndrome don’t want it and are prepared to terminate it. We are the pink elephant in the room. I guess most people feel awkward for us because they are probably in that 92%. I often get a look of pity, you know, the “I’m so sorry” look. I do get quite a lot of smiles, which is nice, and some people will comment on how gorgeous Ariel is which will always make me smile.
Last night, for the first time, I saw the “casually scan the room to get a better look” scenario and I actually felt embarrassed. I felt embarrassed only because I have been guilty of this in the past and it is not half obvious! One gorgeous lady approached me in her happy singsong voice and asked me if I was Ariel’s Mummy. I replied yes and she went on to say how absolutely gorgeous Ariel was and when she was here for orientation Ariel was pulling off her scarf to play with. We chatted a bit about our children and it was nice. It was “normal” and not “awkward”. I also chatted to a few of the parents of the kids in Ariel’s age group/section about Ariel and “how she was going”. All of which I am happy to do, as it’s a good chance to educate others and make a difference in a casual and subtle way. I want to point out at this point that I didn’t feel excluded at all and we had a great time. This was merely an observation and there was no malice intended in what I saw. Anyway, it got me thinking about “inclusion” and “acceptance” and what it means to me. I have read many blogs rehashing the same info, in different ways, about “what not to say to mums of kids with special needs”. I have thought about political correctness and I have also thought about my past life when this subject was not even as issue. How did I act when the shoe was on the other foot?
To be honest, I don’t care too much about what you say as long is your intention is good. I understand you don’t know what to say, so you may come up with some cliché like “oh, they (kids with Down Syndrome) are always so happy”. That is fine, even though it is not true. I will laugh and tell you so.
I don’t want to tell you what to say or what not to say but I would like to invite you to ask me questions and chat to us about our life. I would like to learn about your children too. I have come to terms with Ariel having Down syndrome and I see she is falling behind kids her age. I already prepared myself for that. I am only concerned about Ariels health and happiness so we focus on things that make us happy.
So, don’t feel awkward or feel sorry for us. Please come say hi, and maybe even say something cliche, I would rather hear that than be the pink elephant in the room.