River is such a social little boy, he just loves people and is at his happiest when there’s a crowd. As his Mum, of course I worry about how other children will respond to him, to his differences. I want him to be included in games and have fun right along side them, but after hearing of so many negative stories within our community it worries me that he won’t be. I’m not a person who claims that River is just like any other child, I don’t claim that his Down syndrome doesn’t make him different. It does, and I’m proud of that. I want him to be proud of that. My fight is not to show people that River is ‘normal’, it’s to show people that he’s not and that it’s ok. Being different is ok. Having Down syndrome is ok.
Anyway, I’ve gone off track as usual, I was talking about how I worry about how other children view and interact with River. Well today we had a garden party for Skyler and it was brilliant, they had a blast. And do you know what? River was absolutely part of it and joined in just like everyone else. He was just another child at the party. He jumped and ran about, he sat with everyone when they ate their food, he dragged Skyler’s friends to his drawings and shouted ‘there’ to show them what his brother had created and he laughed along with everyone else. He danced, he sang, he rode his bike and stuffed his face with cake. He was just a child at a party, nothing other than that.
It’s days like today that reinforce my belief in the need to stop influencing our children’s perceptions. I’m not saying that those children will never notice that River is different to them, of course they will. As they grow up it will be obvious that River has a learning disability from his development, and it will be obvious he has Down syndrome from how he looks. He will be different from his peers, there’s no changing that and me saying otherwise doesn’t make it less of a fact. What I am saying is that it’s us as adults that will teach children that those differences are negative, it is us that is teaching children that being different is not acceptable. Our actions, our speech and our fear of ‘different’ is being passed down from generation to generation and it needs to change.
Teach your children that being different is ok, whether that’s disability, race, sexuality, religion, whatever! Different does not mean worse, just different. Different does not mean less than, just different.
Teach your children to be kind, to be accepting and to treat others with respect. Teach them to see the beauty in diversity, in differences. Teach them that the world is huge and full of people who are different to ourselves, yet making the world a better place. Teach them that being a good person is much more important than anything else they have to offer.
It really is that simple