31 for 21 begins! AKA Creating equality through friendship.

>> Saturday, October 01, 2011

Lately life has been in high-speed and I have failed to post much in the past year or two. Truthfully, our daily life with three kids seems to focus very little on our daughter's extra chromosome. As she gets older, it gets so easy just to see her as Maren, a girl who loves iCarly, playing with her two dogs, drinking from the OJ jug (gross!), blasting Katy Perry and Justin Bieber tunes, and obsessing over her wardrobe and matching headbands! She is 10. Oh boy, is she ever a tweener!

But, then there are moments when I stop and get teary-eyed. Those moments when I realize that Maren is such a typical girl because of her friends who see her as a typical girl -- who include her in their gossip and girl-chatter -- who sit with her at lunch and invite her to their parties. These girls don't hang out with Miss Magic because they have been forced to by well-meaning adults, nor because they have been shamed into by teachers or administrators. At their age, they haven't decided to sign-up to be a buddy for her because it would look good on their college applications.

They chill with Maren because they genuinely like her; they enjoy her company. Sure, they know she is different in some ways, but they see the "more alike." Why? These girls are popular girls, truthfully, the kind I never hung out with as a child. I have lots of ideas and it is probably a combination of all of them: the girls come from good homes where there parents have always valued individuality and don't speak ill of others based on superficial differences; they go to churches or community organizations that focus on what being a good person really means; they have been in inclusive settings since they began school and don't see disability as foreign; and when they have questions about difference, they can ask them and get honest and heartfelt answers.

These girls just "get it," and when they are old enough for Camp PALS or Best Buddies, chances are, they will embrace them. They won't see it as resume fodder or a compulsory activity. I believe in my heart of hearts they will join because they know the value of friendship and respect, and understand that it goes both ways in a relationship. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan D. Williams is quoted as saying, Friendship is something that creates equality and mutuality, not a reward for finding equality or a way of intensifying existing mutuality."

To the kids who develop friendships with children with Down syndrome and other special needs, you are creating equality! And, to the parents who raise children who can see the friendship potential in all children, thank you for making our journey so beautiful.

Now, in honor of DS Awareness month, I'm going to try to blog more regularly as part of the 31 for 21 challenge! I'll talk about the daily life of my Little Miss Magic...and anything else I can think of to honor this wonderful month!


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