There were a few things I expected when we brought a three-year-old foster child with Down syndrome into our home.
What was unexpected was how low his Down syndrome ranks in our list of immediate concerns. Of those three descriptors – foster child, toddler and Down syndrome – his diagnosis was dead last. If it’s move up in ranking lately, that’s only because the other two have ceased to be relevant.
There are other descriptors, applicable to us as people and parents that also affect our day-to-day lives much more than the pace or degree of his development. A couple that come to mind are “novices,” and “employed.”
As much as we worked for that day and dreamed it would come, when T. came into our home, we were immediately overwhelmed.
All first time parents are. If you’re not, you’re either doing it wrong or have an excellent supply of tranquilizers, in which case, you’re doing it wrong.
Most first-time parents get to ease into toddlerdom. For the first year or so parents are trying to get their kids to either eat or sleep – or trying to sleep themselves.
We had to figure out those things and quite a few others. For one, T. came to us already mobile – highly mobile. He couldn’t quite walk on his own, but he only needed a bit of support to move around upright and he was an accomplished crawler. This presented challenges for a couple first time parents who did not have an opportunity to ease into this development.
A few weeks after he came into our home, we had a baby shower where we received two of the greatest inventions known to man: the Pack n’ Play and the Diaper Genie.
If you had asked me even a month before the shower to name the greatest products ever invented, neither one would have made the top 1,000.
But that was before I tried to take a shower while my wife was out of the house or held a poopy diaper and an entire pack’s worth of dirty baby wipes, wondering if I closed the gate at the top of the stairs as a half-naked kid crawled down the hall.
Baby proofing consisted of seeing what he could reach, grab or knock down and then not putting things in that spot.
We had to learn not to react to surprising things he did, if we didn’t want him to do those things again, like pretending to choke. Do you know how hard it is to act calm while your son pretends to choke – or at least you’re 99 percent sure he’s pretending?
Or when he eats dirt.
Or drinks from the dogs’ bowl.
Down syndrome? Oh yeah, that too.