What to say if…

The world has been on my mind lately.  By the world, I mean the world of people out there who are waiting to pounce on me and my family to make us feel bad about LP’s Down syndrome.  No?  No one is waiting to pounce on us at all?  The world doesn’t revolve around me, you say?  I beg to differ.

But seriously, it has been bugging me.  I’ve already had a few interactions that rubbed me the wrong way.  I don’t understand this, but when you have young children, it seems that they become some kind of community property, available for all to comment upon, touch, and judge.  (I thought being pregnant was bad.  Having the actual children is way worse.)  I’m finding that this is extra-special-highly-annoying with LP.  It has started in subtle ways; strangers comment on how different he looks from his sisters, or ask pointed questions about what he is doing developmentally, or how old he is.  The being different from his sisters bugs me the most.  I have no idea if people see LP and see the features of a baby with Down syndrome.  Clearly, having strangers make a big deal about how different he looks from them brings out some strange feelings in me.  Do they see it?  Should I care?  Do they think he is less cute?  This stuff is pretty innocuous right now while the little man is still so young.  Later, however, I’m 100% sure that people will ask me about him, and say all sorts of rude crap.

Why do I know this?  ‘Cause people already say all sorts of rude crap to me about the elder Taters.  Like we were in the store the other day, there are a couple cashiers who know us and started some chit chat.  It was the first time we’d been in there since LP was born, and they made a huge deal about the fact that he is a boy.  In front of Mouse and Chipmunk, they said, “Yeah!  He’s a boy!  Now you can stop trying, you must be soooo happy.”  Yes, lady.  Say that in front of my two daughters.  That is totally appropriate.  I also like that people think they can just interrogate Latke and I about our kids’ ethnic background.  Right in front of them, people will just ask, “What are they?”  They are humans.  Would you like to say “Hello” to them?  No?  Just inquire about their racial heritage and walk away?  Ooookay then.

I get that some people don’t mean these things in a bad way.  Sometimes people ask me all sorts of stuff about the Taters and I’m not offended at all.  But there are people who are just kind, curious people, and there are those who are just nosy judgmental assholes.  So, in preparation for the nosy judgmental assholes, I’ve started a list of potential responses.  Now, I have the caveat that I think you can say any of these things and not be a judgmental asshole, depending on why/how you say it.  Everyone knows the difference though.  You knows it.

Asking “How old is your baby?” or “Can they [insert developmental milestone] yet?”  (Ok, I know a lot of people ask how old babies are, and so do I.  But you know what I’m talking about.  I’m talking that mother at the park who is clearly sizing your kid up so she can feel smug about her own.)

  1. Tell them we have been slowing her growth and development down with drugs, so we can enjoy these early years a little longer.  When they look shocked and uncomfortable, offer to help them to it to their own kid.
  2. Act surprised and ask, am I supposed to keep track of how old they are???
  3. Say your baby us the same reverse ageing thing as Benjamin Button.  Tell them your baby is actually your dad/mom. Then breastfeed your baby in front of them.

Special parents get special babies… (This is totally annoying to me.  It is condescending, and implies that only certain people can handle the undesirable special job of parenting a kid with Ds.  Yes, thank you for giving me a little gold star for my special baby.)

  1. Act really excited and tell them you and your husband are trying to create an über race of people by messing with their chromosomes. Ask, “do you think our procedure took?”
  2. Insist that your baby was born by immaculate conception.  When they look uncomfortable (and they will), accuse them of being discriminatory against your religion.
  3. Say that you’re considering having the entire family undergo plastic surgery in order to look just like your special baby.  Bemoan how expensive it all is, and how no one seems to understand where you’re coming from.
  4. Tell them that you think your babies Ds is a sign that she is the chosen one and that you are her special parents.  Share all the details of the shrine you have erected in your house for your baby, and console them by saying that perhaps they need to try to be a better person before they get such a special baby.

Is he a Down’s baby?  What does he have?

  1. Act like it is the first time it has ever occurred to you, freak out, call your partner and sob.
  2. Ask, “Are you asking that because I’m Asian?” (You think this won’t work for you if you’re not Asian, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be even funnier if you’re NOT Asian and you use this line.  Give it a try.)
  3. Insist that they are probably closeted and have Ds themselves and tell then they should stop projecting on my baby.  Let them know gently that it is ok to have Down syndrome, give them an awkwardly long hug.
  4. Act like you have never heard of Down syndrome.  Make them explain what it is.  As an added bonus, demand that they take off their shoes so you can check them for the sandal toe gap, touch their necks to check for extra skin and ask if you can take their fingerprints.  Just for comparison, that’s all.

I’m open to hearing more of these.  The more the better.  I think I’ll add to this periodically, but for tonight this is the extent to my abilities to orchestrate socially awkward situations in my head for my own amusement.  Is it wrong for me to plot all sorts of inappropriate ways to deal with other people making me feel bad about my son?  Maybe.  Am I supposed to actually deal with my feelings or something?  Or just walk away because that is the mature thing to do?  No fun.

18 Comments on “What to say if…”

  1. Lisa says:

    Oh my god, I love you so much! You’re killing me!! I think I’m going to laugh all day now . . .

  2. Tamara says:

    I don’t know you…but I LOVE you!!! That was great!! Good for you!!! :)

  3. Troy says:

    I’m totally using the Asian one. If I can keep a straight face.

  4. Troy says:

    Oh I forgot! Even more annoying when they surprisedly proclaim how much he actually DOES look like his siblings! Makes my blood boil.

  5. ajummama says:

    man, i hate people sometimes. i so knows those mamas who be askin’ everything about my baby, sizing him up, offering condolences if not walking yet. why you walkin’ away all smug – you forgot to ask his blood type. and then flip side – joy luck club me! – if someone compliments my baby, i can’t just accept it! unlike a few mamas i know who actually say their own baby is SOOO gorgeous, must model. maybe it’s my korean way but how tacky to say that sh*t out loud in public. “ooohhh, ppl don’t go crrrrazy for YOUR baby! we can’t go anywhere because they will surround him!” man, now i am getting all hot! ahahahaa

    • jisun says:

      I think for me it is that most compliments seem to come from a place that values looks and intelligence over all else. So those compliments, I have a hard time with. Just gotta do the old smile and nod. ;)

      • ajummama says:

        hmmm…now i’m thinking about what type of compliments i should stay away from with my li’l kims. i heard we supposed to compliment them on EFFORT. i always tell them i want their HEARTS to be handsome and fwine. but on the flip side, i am working on getting my first dude ready for part-time preschool by standing up to kids, since he real gentle and cautious.

        • jisun says:

          I have a gentle first born too, it is rough to see her struggle with that. Have you read the research from the Center for the Greater Good? Really fascinating stuff, that is where that idea about complimenting on effort comes from. Honestly, lately, I’m just settling on telling people that their kids are awesome and smiling a big smile. Keepin’ it simple. :)

  6. Lori McLellan says:

    I am the mom of a “Down’s baby” and I think you’re freaking hilarious! I’m going to try some of these responses the next time I get a comment (if I can keep a straight face and my sense of humour).

    So happy to have found your blog. It’s bliss to read.


    • jisun says:

      Aw, thank you! Please send video if you ever use any of these, seriously!

      • Lori McLellan says:

        If only I could have videotaped the exchange between me and the over-40, newly pregnant phlebotomist (way too much info to be shared between strangers, if you ask me). She anxiously asked me if either me or my husband were “healthy” before I had conceived my daughter. And my baby was barely 48 hours old. So many great retorts came to me after we had left the hospital but it was esprit d’escalier at that point.

        • jisun says:

          Oh, I’ve had so many of those! Today I had a woman exclaim “Oh, you’ve got such a small baby!” to me while holding her own baby in her arms (with a very judgmental tone of voice full of pity). I was standing there deliberating whether or not I was going to embarrass her or let it go, but it turned out that my silence seemed to make her uncomfortable all on its own. So I just turned around and walked the other direction.

          Why, oh, why, do strangers feel like they should be able to ask whatever they want when it comes to difference and disability??? I try to be understanding, but it really boggles the mind!

  7. theresa says:

    Our T21 baby was born basically dead. No heartbeat for over 20 minutes before the Lord brought him back to life. He is alive and well today at 4 months old. I had a friend ask me if it would have been more traumatic if he had not had Down’s. If it would have been harder if he was ‘normal’. Was it easier knowing he might die because he was T21? Seriously? WTH?!?!

    • jisun says:

      Oh, no. I can’t decide what’s worse, that she said that, or that she was your friend who said that. Ugh!

      But twenty minutes, wow. Your baby was clearly meant to be here, and that’s that! Congrats. :)

  8. Jenise Treuting says:

    Reading this aloud was the perfect end to the day for my husband and I! About the Asian line, that was actually our first “What to say if…” We fantasized about saying, “Do you think we’ve been in Japan too long?” (Which is something I’ve never told anyone, because I couldn’t imagine anyone but the two of us would understand the joke.) You’ve inspired my husband to come up with a similar list for all the inappropriate things people say to us as foreigners here.

    What we’re coming up against now is what to say when people say, “Oh, but you can’t even tell!” or “He’s obviously got a mild case.” ….Um, okay… is about all I can manage at the moment.

    • Bec Quigley says:

      I get that quite a lot, Jenise!
      Yes, my little guy has fairly mild DS features.
      Yes, he looks a lot like his brother. That COULD be because they have the same parents!
      Should I be grateful that you “Couldn’t tell!” that he has DS? Not sure…
      I am torn between being happy that he doesn’t have really strong DS facial features as I know that he may have a slightly easier road ahead of him, but at the same time that is then devaluing those other gorgeous kids with DS who have stronger features…
      Mummy guilt in overdrive!
      If I am happy that he looks ‘normal’ what does that say about me as a mother of a child with DS?

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