Author: Jen Franklin Kearns, ds-connex team member
A couple of weekends ago, my family and I were enjoying a Sunday afternoon at the pool. As we’re having an exceptionally rainy summer, we were anxious to take advantage of a window of nice weather. My kids happily jumped into the pool, over and over again, squealing in delight as they splashed down into the water. Now that the kids are older, my husband and I can sit at the side of the pool and supervise, rather than having to stay right with them in the water.
As we sat, entertained by the kids’ antics, I noticed a lady sitting with her kids not far from us. They were sitting a few feet back from where my kids were playing. After several minutes, the lady started walking toward us. “Excuse me,” she began, “is the little blond boy yours?”
The boy in question was Alex, my son with Down syndrome. My heart sank a bit; I thought for sure she was going to tell me that he had splashed her baby or taken one of their toys. He’s been known to do that on occasion, after all.
“Yep, he’s ours!” my husband answered, and she smiled and responded that she has a son with Down syndrome too, and then went on to compliment Alex’s swimming skills. I immediately relaxed with the reassurance that he hadn’t caused a disturbance, and we had a nice conversation about the kids. After a few moments, I thanked her for coming over to meet us, and admitted that I tend to shy away from approaching other families when I notice their child with Down syndrome, for fear of somehow offending them or catching them at an inopportune moment. She nodded her head in agreement, explaining that she often feels the same way, but she approaches families anyway because “we need each other”.
Those four words have stuck with me since that brief encounter at the pool. “We need each other”. So very true! We need to have allies in the Down syndrome community, in the disability community, so that we can share the knowledge we obtain through our personal experiences. We need each other’s support, so that we can be comforted by the fact that we aren’t the only family on this journey. Perhaps most importantly, we need each other’s friendship, because if we can’t share some laughs along the way with parents who truly “get” what we’re dealing with on a daily basis, we just might lose it.
The next time you spy another family who is fortunate enough to have a child with Down syndrome, I encourage you to stop for a moment to say hello and introduce yourself. We need each other. We truly do.