The kindness of a community

We had a wonderful day yesterday. We met with a lovely family that has 5 year old triplets, one who has Down syndrome. This beautiful family opened their home to us, complete strangers. It was reassuring to see how “normal” their day to day life is – well as normal as life can be with 5 year old triplets! The mom, Sheila, made it all look so easy. But she was completely honest with her struggles and what challenges they’ve faced.

I was a bit nervous before meeting with this family. I haven’t been around a child with Down syndrome before. Would I act uncomfortable? Say something inappropriate? Cry? (Seems silly but shortly after Eli’s diagnosis, Chuck and I saw a little girl at Costco who had Down syndrome and we had to leave because it upset us so much). Thankfully, this was not to be the case this time. We have changed, evolved in our feelings, and accepted.

We were welcomed by the whole family at the door. The triplets consisted of one boy, and two girls, one who had Down syndrome (Olivia). They had drawn pictures for us right before we arrived. So sweet! Olivia told us “bye bye” and then retreated to her room for a bit. She tends to be a little shy/uncomfortable around people she doesn’t know. We gave her some space and got comfortable playing with some toys on the floor. Cody warmed up quickly when he found a helicopter to play with. I was unsure how the conversation would flow but Sheila made us feel super comfortable and was basically just an open book of information. After some time, we went upstairs to Olivia’s room to check on her. Within minutes she grabbed my hands to play Ring Around the Rosie. I guess I passed the stranger test! Soon her and I were dancing to the Beatles. She is delayed in her speech but communicates through sign language. Her mom highly recommended it for our family since most children with Down syndrome have some speech delays. She especially thought Cody could benefit greatly from it so he could communicate with his little brother. She shared with us that most children with Down syndrome use signing so it’s a good way for them to stay connected with their “peeps”. 😄

One story Sheila relayed was how when her and her hubby were pre kids they hired a housekeeper. It is common practice to give the housekeeper, a total stranger, keys to their house. They wondered if this was a safe thing to do. They laugh about that now. You see, here we are on a Sunday morning, standing in her kitchen, complete strangers. She opened up her home and her hearts to us. She let us play with her children. She welcomed us into the “family”. The Down syndrome community has shown their kindness to us in more ways than I can count – and we’ve only been a part of this “club” for a couple of months. It’s a community that I didn’t think I wanted to be a part of but am now so happy to be welcomed in to. Maybe it’s that parents with children with special needs have to be compassionate, understanding, and kind. Maybe it’s that many can remember being in our shoes at one time and they can recall those strangers, that soon became friends, who helped them along the unknown path. Whatever their reasons, we have met some of the most gracious people in the start of our journey. I can only imagine the friends, who we’ve yet to meet, waiting for us in our future.

We finished the day by celebrating my mom’s birthday. Everyone keeps telling me how strong I am and that I’m a good mom (thank you!). I am the mom I am today because I learned from the best. My mom is the most giving, selfless, loving person I have ever met. She accepted Eli and his diagnosis immediately. She has been a rock of support for Chuck and I. If I can be to my children what my mom is to me, I will have succeeded greatly. Happy Birthday Mama! We love you.

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3 comments on “The kindness of a community

  1. Family: I cannot express the love and respect I have for you and Chuck for being the great parents that you are. Some people argue that life is strife and suffering is normal. Others swear we’re born sinful and only heaven can provide us with the peace that passes undestanding. But I say that being alive on the rough green and brown earth is the highest honor and privilege. It’s an invitation to work wonders and perform miracles that aren’t possible in any promise land or afterlife. We already living in paradise and we are here because we are made of love.
    Thank you for let me be part of your life’s journey. I am sending you love and light.
    Rosa

  2. Hi Melanie – this is David, Sheila’s husband. She told me about your blog post and I was curious to ready about your visit in your words, although of course Sheila told me all about it. I’m glad you found it helpful. I’m really sorry that I was away on a short business trip when you came to visit and I missed you. I just wanted to extend an offer to Chuck to get together for a beer maybe, and have a chat man-2-man so to speak if that would be useful; you know a father’s perspective. I also have some involvement in the Washington State Fathers Network (since last October) which is a support group for dads (as if you couldn’t guess from the name). They host a variety of gatherings and events as well as being an excellent source of information and networking opportunities. Anyway, feel free to reach out if and when you need.

    • Hi David! I will pass on the invitation to
      Chuck. I’m sure he’d love hearing about a fathers perspective over a beer. Thanks for reaching out. Hope to meet you at one of the events this summer!

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