What we did and when we did it. Sometimes.

What we did and when we did it. Sometimes. People, places and events to remember.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What to Say

I've had two conversations lately where I felt thrown for a loop. 

The weather is cooling just a bit, and it's wonderful to be outside in the afternoon.  After dinner, our crew headed out front to enjoy the evening.  Our next door neighbors were outside, too, so I took Ben over to show him off.  :)  We were talking about how beautiful he is and what color his eyes are (blue!) and so on, when my neighbor commented that she could see that he was part-Asian because of his eye shape.  I agreed, and then told her that he has Down syndrome as well.  She was super-positive, just kept loving on him and saying how sweet he is (like sugar!).  She's a nurse, so she gave him the once-over and told me that he really looks great. 

Then today, we went to Evan's report card pickup (he did great - all scores in the 90's), and stopped to talk to the school secretary.  She's half Japanese and likes our family because Emmett's half Japanese as well.  She and some of the teaching staff all stopped their conversation to admire Ben, and she made the same comment about his eyes!  "Oh, you can see that he's Japanese because of his eyes!"  This time, I just smiled and agreed; I didn't say anything about Down syndrome because I felt awkward.

I'm not ashamed of Ben at all - or ashamed of Down syndrome.  I'm just not exactly sure how to work it into conversation.  Is it that important to mention that he has it?  Or can people just tell from looking at him?  I look at him all day long, so I don't notice anything different.  He just looks like a baby to me - although I do think he's more beautiful and amazing than any other baby I know.

 I need a conversation strategy.

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  1. He definitely does look more asian because of his eyes -- but really, I think he looks like the other two when they were babies, to be quite honest!

    My strategy growing up when talking about being adopted (since it was obvious when I was with my parents) was that if it was someone that was in my life, I felt fine talking to them about it. If it were a stranger then I would only comment on it if they mentioned something (i.e., when I was younger it was "You speak english so well!" *eye roll*).

    I guess I feel like the school secretary's comment wasn't really about DS, it was about the shape of his eyes -- but maybe if she brings it up again, talk about it? I know, so hard. I have dealt with comments on my physical appearance just about for forever (as did my mother), so I know it's an awkward subject...

  2. We've sometimes had similar (obviously not identical) issues with our son's background. I think at this point, you can deal with it the same as with your other children "looking Asian", Debo, and not worry about the Down's issue coming up. He's still so little! You are right that it feels weird, but with time it will feel less so; many are just trying to make some conversation or find a point of human contact.

    I think that later, when the Down's may be more clear visually as such (who knows?), people will also comment, but presumably in as caring a way as they know how; there is much less stigma around this than when we were kids. And you will witness by the grace your words always carry and your evident love for him.

  3. It's so good to hear other people's perspectives! I don't think either my neighbor or the school secretary was thinking about Ds at all when they commented on Ben's eyes. It just struck me because one of the characteristics of Ds is almond-shaped eyes. So people are seeing that his features are a little different, just attributing it to his Japanese heritage instead of Ds.

  4. I think, too, that I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about Down syndrome (and congenital heart defects) - whether it is learning more about therapies, interviewing pediatricians, reading blogs, scheduling and taking Ben to assorted appointments. Ben's health and well-being is a very present concern - so I want to talk about it.