This story was originally published on The Mighty.
Before I had my son, Miles, I didn’t know anyone with Down syndrome.
It made me nervous to see people with Down syndrome in public because of my lack of education and experience. I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, and I didn’t want to feel embarrassed. I also didn’t know much about Down syndrome, and many of the things I thought I knew have turned out to be false.
My son recently celebrated his second birthday, and I celebrated the milestone of being a proud parent of a son with Down syndrome for two years.
Over the past two years, I have learned a few things and wanted to share three insights on interacting with parents of children with Down syndrome:
1. What should you say to someone who has a baby with Down syndrome?
"Congratulations on the birth of your baby!" "Look at all of that hair!" "What a precious gift!" That’s about it.
Don’t try to guess what the parent is feeling. If it’s important for you to know, then ask, "How are you feeling?" (I guess it is always OK to assume they’re exhausted because being a new parent is exhausting.)
2. How should you treat a family with a child with Down syndrome?
Exactly how you would treat any other family. Invite them out to dinner. Offer to babysit. Set up playdates with your kids to play with their kid. Celebrate with them when they have something to celebrate. Pray for them when things are difficult or send gift cards and cupcakes. If you don’t know what you can do to be a good friend, then just ask. Easy-peasy.
3. What do I wish you knew about having a child with Down syndrome?
Having a child with Down syndrome can be difficult at times, just like having a typical child is. Having a child with Down syndrome is very wonderful at times, just like having a typical child is.
If I were given a multiple-choice test to complete during my pregnancy, I probably wouldn’t have marked the little bubble beside "Down syndrome" for my son. But now, two years later, I wouldn’t trade my son for anyone or anything in this world. I am so proud of him. He is making me a better person — a more loving, tolerant, accepting person.
Miles has taught me to brave. He’s taught me to look for, notice, and appreciate all of the amazing people with Down syndrome all around me. Miles has taught me to appreciate the things I used to take for granted. He has taught me to smile and laugh every day.
I am so incredibly blessed to be Miles’ mom.