When my mate Dave asked me to write a blog for his 21 Blogs campaign to help raise awareness about Downs Syndrome I was first of all flattered and honoured, then I was like, maybe I can get out of this somehow. Being selfish and lazy comes very naturally to me.
Honestly, I knew nothing about Down’s Syndrome other than what I’d seen on TV or heard on the radio and I was very happy in my blissful ignorance. I’m glad to say I am not as ignorant as I once was on the subject but I’ve only really scratched the surface.
When I first heard that Dave and Lynn’s second child, Eilidh, had been born with Down’s Syndrome I was of course totally shocked and upset. I found myself pitying them, and thinking about how much of a nightmare this was and how unlucky they were. I kept thinking about how this is going to affect our relationship as friends, what does this mean for me? I’m not proud of my reaction but in the beginning it was what I was thinking.
I then began to think about Eilidh and all the difficulty she’s going to face. How is she going to handle school? Will she be able to work? What about relationships? What sort of quality of life will she have? Again I found myself feeling so sorry for her, pitying her and her situation. This utterly ridiculous train of thought continued until the first time I met Eilidh.
I have no concerns about Eilidh or her future. Certainly no more than I have for my own nieces and nephews. From what I have seen Eilidh is a wonderfully happy, bright and bubbly wee cutie of a girl. She plays and smiles with her older brother Rory like any other wee girl, she makes a mess at the table, she greets, she builds stuff up then knocks it over and from what I can gather is well on her way to being the next Elton John, including throwing the occasional hissy fit.
People with Down’s Syndrome don’t want pity, or sympathy, they just want to be treated like everyone else. As Eilidh grows up, she will tell us exactly what it means to live with DS, exactly what she wants from life (as long as its support Liverpool and be celibate Dave and Lynn will happily oblige), and exactly what she doesn’t want. What she doesn’t need is people who don’t have DS or have any experience of it to tell her what she can and can’t achieve in her life. I’m never a big fan of people bossing me or telling me I can’t do something. Are you? If the answer is yes then it’s probably when you’re clad in latex chaps with a leather mask on and handcuffed to a radiator. Hey, whatever floats your boat.
No, I’m not worried about Eilidh. The people I’m concerned for are Dave and Lynn. Where’s the section in the parenting manual for dealing with this? Again, Dave has talked already about the struggles they’ve faced and continue to face. Raising kids is hard enough, I’m told, but raising a kid with DS must put extra strain on the parents. Now, I will never stop being concerned about my friends, any of them, but in Dave and Lynn’s case I take great comfort in something. The fact that they are two of the finest human beings you are ever likely to meet eases my worry. They are two of my favourite people on the planet. They have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in their lives but have handled it and dealt with whatever is thrown at them with a maturity and calm that is simply monumental. I am in awe of their parenting. Rory is a fabulous wee lad and a loving and patient older brother, a testament to the outstanding job Dave and Lynn are doing. Eilidh will want for nothing in her life. She is, and will be loved, supported, spoiled and doted on for as long as her parents and Aunts and Uncles are around.
I really didn’t write this to raise awareness for Down’s Syndrome, other people will do that far better and more eloquently than I ever could. No, I want to raise awareness of the superhuman effort that Dave and Lynn put in every day, and how they do it in such an understated and modest way. I know that I don’t do enough to support them. I live in England, but support is not limited to physical presence. A call, a text, a post of Dish Jotter (sorry, Facebook) can be just as helpful. I’m sorry guys, I will do more. Maybe. As long as Wigan aren’t playing, or I’m on the Xbox (raising kids might be hard, but so is raising your Colonel level on Battlefield3 on servers full of noobs!), or watching TV or eating, which is a lot of the time.
They are quite simply an example for all to follow, not only as parents, but as people in general. And they love a good G+T which is just the icing on the cake.
Of course, anyone that knows them, knows all this already, but it’s worth repeating.
Fergus is a Scotsman living in Northampton. There is a Change.org petition to get him to move back to Scotland soon.
If you enjoyed this blog then please donate a few pounds to support the vital work that DS Scotland undertake. www.justgiving.com/DownWithDad