I love the way Down syndrome babies look!

I think people with special needs get treated differently. I think I treat them differently. Not as much lately but still it’s there. As my understanding expands so does my sensitivity to those messages out there.

Most of the messages remind me of Lenny Bruce’s routine “How To Relax Your Colored Friends at Parties (1959)”. * Bruce’s premise is that liberal whites overcompensate for their uncomfortableness with race. That concept particularly resonates for me because many years ago an African American co-worker said to me, “ You know, I don’t like to just talk about Black stuff.” Cringe, cringe, and cringe. She and I did end up become friends and confidants mainly because of her honesty.

I had someone say to me that he didn’t even realize T. had Down syndrome after looking at a photo of him. I couldn’t tell if he really couldn’t or it’s like when someone says, “I don’t see color.”

My mom was showing photos of T. to a group of friends when one of the women picked up a photo and said, “Show them this one, he doesn’t look like he has Down syndrome.”  I guess she was saying he could “pass.” (When my mom called me that night to tell me she said, “We love his Down syndrome, right?” Right.)

While waiting for an elevator I had a woman say to me “I’m going to visit a Down syndrome child today.” I only saw her in passing but I thought maybe she knew I had one of those. What I said was, “Oh, my son has Down syndrome.” It became clear she didn’t know I had a son with with Down syndrome – she was bragging. It’s was the “Some of my best friends are Gay syndrome.”

The thing I hear the most – there are too many examples to pick just one ­– is “Down syndrome people are so happy”. It is also the one that bothers me the most. It’s a compliment the way saying, “All Asian are good at math,” isn’t.

The strangest encounter was at Target**. A woman walking next to us said, “I love the way Down syndrome babies look!” She squealed with delight when T. looked at her. She said it about three more times. Did she think I didn’t hear her? If her daughter hadn’t been with her I would have said something but you can’t embarrass any kid like that. Her comment is the redux of “Bi-racial babies are so cute!”

I may think I am less guilty of these kind of offenses but reading over this, I am wondering who am I bending over backwards to make comfortable because of my deficits?


*I “remember” the routine from the 1974 Bob Fosse film starring Dustin Hoffman, Lenny.

** Yes, I love Target. I only hope its not as bad as loving Walmart.

This entry was posted in By Notatypicalmom, Special Needs by Kari Wagner-Peck. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari Wagner-Peck lives with her husband and son in Maine. She is a writer & storyteller who home schools with her son. She is the author of the memoir Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, May, 2017, Central Recovery Press. She has been published at CNN, Psychology Today online, The New York Times Well Family blog, The Huffington Post, The The Good Men Project, The Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life blog, BLOOM and Love That Max among others. Author page: kariwagnerpeck.com Twitter @KariWagnerPeck and Facebook: www.facebook.com/NotAlwaysHappyLive/ Email: kariwagnerpeck@gmail.com

6 thoughts on “I love the way Down syndrome babies look!

  1. People are such idiots! How did we get to be the dominant species on this planet? I wonder if all the “Down syndrome babies are so cute!” comments you get are a cover – a person is looking at T & feels the need to say something they perceive is positive. Why they can’t just tell you that your child is cute is beyond me.

    I really enjoy reading your blog. To be honest, I had previously felt bad for parents with Down syndrome kids, thinking how disappointed they must have been when their child wasn’t born ‘normal’ and what a burden it must be to have a child who might never leave home & will always need help. Reading your thoughts has expanded my way of thinking & I thank you for that, and for sharing your journey. If my honesty makes me sound like an idiot, well, I *am* human & we are all idiots. :)

    • I wonder what it is that makes people want to generalize and categorize other people? I am guilty of treating people with special needs differently. Lately, though, I have realized my response of not knowing what to do has turned into a smile reaction. I did it in a forced way at first, now it is automatic. Whether I see someone coming in a wheelchair or I see a mom who has a kid with a germ mask on or the young adult with a large facial birthmark at my grocery store– I begin to smile at them. I figure it is far better than the curious stares I have received while out with my son.

      • I like it – smiling is always better than staring. I’m trying to smile at everyone but then I am from Wisconsin.

  2. What if you do truly believe it? What if you do truly thinks babies with down syndrome are irresistibly adorable and you would be truly delighted to have one? I’ve had the joy (and crazy frustration, let’s be honest) of a good few people with down syndrome in my life and i am genuinely a fan ESPECIALLY of babies. Is my fandom the offensive part, or broadcasting it? (not being smart, i really would like to know) I get that people have this ‘oh i’m so good, i like someone with a disability’ and often choose not to explain my son’s asperger’s syndrome to avoid people being Proudly Nice to him- but what if it’s genuine?

    • Sorry for delay! SUMMER is so short here I can’t do anything but be outside:)

      Your question really made me think! Okay, nothing wrong with truly believing that. I love the way our kid looks, too. Maybe I should have been pleased or at least said, “Me, too!”. I think the following us and continuing to say it is out of bounds though.

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