Turnabout feels really good

While drying my hair after my lap swim this morning, I noticed a girl I’d never seen before in the locker room mirror. A girl with Down syndrome. I quickly averted my eyes back to my own reflection, anxious not to seem like I was staring.

She took a spot in the same row with my locker, and a moment later, when I shut off the hair dryer, I noticed she was talking.  It kind of looked like to herself, but I wasn’t sure. “Excuse me?” I said, tentatively.

“Oh nothing.” She shook her head and looked down. Then, her excitement getting the better of her, she burst out, “Today’s my Special Olympics.”

“That’s great!” I said. “What stroke do you swim?”

“Freestyle.”

We chatted a bit more. I found out it was her second year competing, she swam two races, she’d been practicing really hard, and she was thrilled to be there today. I wished her good luck and to have fun, and left.

Outside the locker room, I recognized a co-worker among the other athletes and parents milling about. We were chatting when this same girl came out of the locker room and up to him. She was suddenly worried about something. My co-worker reassured her and sent her back into the locker room.

“Was that your daughter?” I asked, and then related our conversation, and how excited she was.

My coworker smiled as big as his daughter had. And so did I. It was the first time I’ve had a chance to give another special needs parent the kind of positive feedback about their child that so gladdens and gratifies me when I’m on the receiving end.

Sometime in the first year after I became a mother, I remember feeling like I finally understood the motivation of the human race — the drive to expend so much effort to nurture the next generation. In plainer terms, I suddenly got it when people bragged about their kids. And I wanted to listen, instead of finding a way to shut them up.

After finally gaining that entree, since entering the tribe of special needs parents a few years later, I’ve had to struggle mightily with the world’s tendency to focus on my son’s ASD traits/issues/challenges/pick your euphemism, I can damn well read between the lines. Can we please, for once, talk about strengths?!

Everyone knows the old aphorism, “If you can’t say nothing nice, don’t say nothing at all.” I offer this update: “If you can say something nice, speak up.”

Go on, go ahead. Make someone’s day.

– Drop cap courtesy of Daily Drop Cap.

 

2 Comments to Turnabout feels really good

  1. Cari,
    Thank you for sharing your honest story with others. My son, Wil, is soon to turn 6 and has Down syndrome. I have seen this “turnabout” happen on so many occasions. You can literally see the fear evaporate in front of your eyes. Amazing what one encounter can do, and I hope your words did this for many of your readers.

    Your update is fantastic, “If you can say something nice, speak up.”

    Christie Taylor

  2. Steven Muscat says:

    Absolutely great story!!!!

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