New York is a place inundated with some of the pushiest and most forward people on the face of the planet. I know, I’m a native New Yorker… It is also home to some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Though my boys are only mildly affected by Down syndrome, you’d be surprised how many people stare at them, then look away, averting eye contact with me “their poor mother with such children”. But, more often — much more often — people meet Brian’s and Michael’s smiles, waves and greetings in kind, with open arms and big smiles… and, often, questions about their seemingly “normal” skills and development — which I always take as an opportunity to educate… The more folks understand that people with Down syndrome are “normal” — running the gamut of intelligence and physical capability just like people without Down syndrome — the more accepted Brian and Michael will be… able to live their lives more fully just like you and me.
Despite the crowds, Brian, Michael and Olivia were their usual polite selves, waiting patiently for a front-row spot at the “underground cliffs” where you could get an underwater glimpse of the wonderful sea creatures housed at the Aquarium. They oohed and aahhed at all the right moments. They fully entertained interested bystanders as they were themselves entertained by the incredible sights. Only once did I abandon my stroller in an all-out run to grab Brian as he disappeared into the crowd at the northern fur seal window while yelling for Olivia to grab Michael’s arm and follow Mommy. I did resort to strapping them briefly into their stroller until I recovered from the brief panic of nearly losing them and until the Green Moray eel in the conservation tank proved to be more interesting and more hidden under the rocks than I knew they could see from their stroller’s coupe seats.
My 3 angel babies grew my heart 10 times yesterday — just like the grinch as he heard the Who’s voices rise up above their dismay at Christmas being stolen.
There is a story about new parents finding themselves visiting Holland when they planned a trip to Italy. As far as I’ve expereinced, most new parents of a child born with a disability are given a copy of this story to help them… I don’t know what the right word is, maybe cope, with the loss of their expected life versus the life they will now go on to live. From the moment my boys were born to this very day, my life has been a whirlwind vacation to the extraordinary places (in mind and body) my children bring me daily. I never planned a trip to Italy, or to Holland for that matter. What I planned for is motherhood with all it’s unknowns. And, what I got is exactly what I knew I would get, absolutely beautiful, loving children who make me feel capable of giving and loving more than I ever knew I could. I’m not in Holland with my children. I’m not in Italy either. I was at the New York Aquarium, enjoying their company and my life with these miraculous angel babies…. one beautiful, sunny-with-a-chance-of-scattered-thunderstorms day at a time.
Isn’t life good?