Monday, December 29, 2014

Family that embraces daughter is great gift

by Hellen Middlebrook from Pacific Daily News:
For most of us, friends are a normal part of life. But what if your life isn't normal? And what if you aren't?
Deborah, our daughter with Down syndrome, has been growing up without friends. I know this is not the case for every child with disabilities; those who go to school usually experience some level of friendship. Deborah has been in similar settings, but these have not been enough to cultivate friendships.
In her almost 15 years, I've watched Deborah be patronized by adults and rejected by her peers. Adults often treat her as if she's a teddy bear -- something to hug and say nice things at. Very rarely do adults actually talk with her.
With the exception of one young lady who has left the island, those of her own generation have ignored her. If they do see her, they don't acknowledge her. Deborah has never been invited to a birthday party or an outing. But she has been told to "go inside" when others have been outside playing.
Such things are hard on a mother's heart.
I know it can be difficult to understand her; I know it's also difficult for her to keep up with a conversation. And I know if she is ever to have friends, it's up to me to create the situations to foster friendships.
This is easier said than done. Finding the right young person takes time and discernment. (Hint: It's not the kid who says with contempt, "What's wrong with her? Why does she look like that?")
But sometimes, friendship happens.
Earlier this month, Deborah was invited to make a craft with an older friend and her granddaughters. For the first time ever, I dropped her off -- and left.
She had a wonderful time. She learned how to cut wire and decorate a wreath, and how to interact with someone outside her family. Reportedly there was much giggling.
This pleasant encounter led to an invitation to a more formal social event.
So I dropped her off a second time.
When I went back, I found her playing cards with her new friends. I nearly cried. To see her having fun with children and no adults around was a gift beyond words.
I am so grateful for this family who has embraced my daughter and given her a chance to be a friend.
To be normal.
Helen Middlebrooke, of Toto, is a freelance writer, who has three children with disabilities.

No comments:

Post a Comment