Awareness is a stupid word.
There, I said it. This is my annual blog challenge, of making a post every day in honor of October being Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
I know this is silly, since I just promoted Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. But it's a little different, stay with me...
Some awareness months make more sense. Like: "Hey, it's important to make sure you are aware of how your body works, so you can make sure you aren't broken." Breast cancer, heart attacks, prostate cancer...stuff like that. Also, awareness that promotes being involved to help research funding, that is reasonable.
Others are dumb. "Hey, something like this exists outside of you and your circles of 'normal'." Most people already know that. You know how I know? Because my kid gets crooked looks whenever we go out. Anywhere. People are darn sure aware she is different. They may or may not know why, and the medical jargon of what causes her to be different is almost worthless at changing perception. That eliminates only those who think they might catch her different-ness.
I am also aware that I am not 5. I cannot catch being 5. I understand what causes being 5. I understand that being 5 is different than being 38.
So. Big whoop.
I confess, I am spoiling for a fight, a little, this year. I am done begging for you accept that my gal exists and I am proud of it. I am requesting that you choose to understand, and better your life for the knowledge.
If we did say, Down Syndrome Celebration Month, or Down Syndrome Appreciation Month, I think I'd be more excited.
Being aware that somebody is 5, is different that appreciating what it is to be 5 and the magic that inviting a 5 year old to share their perspective in your life. 5 year olds can play with abandon. They don't care what people think. They can create anything, they suffer no barriers of why something could not work. They get excited by things that you take for granted. They get ecstatic about things that annoy you. They aspire to do the fantastic. Their imagination is limitless. They are lucky. You should aspire to incorporate their "joie de vivre" into your dumb, boring, "adult" life.
Being with a 5 year old invites their perspectives to unravel your barriers, to grow you past others' strictures on you, and to reactivate your imagination. It's terribly cool. And you are reminded what you valued when you were 5. You are refreshed. (After you sleep off being tired from growing and changing so much, so fast, of course.)
Well. Guess what? Being with someone who has Down Syndrome can regenerate things in you, too. They are awesome. They are remarkably like other nice, boringly normal people.
Because of all the medical jargon, they have to fight a little harder for "normal" and it may take a little longer, but they can achieve what you can. But because the achievements in their lives were a little more like a Spartan Run, instead of a rolling walk through a meadow, their triumph is palpable.
Because their training for the Spartan Run of life was more rigorous, they may be more focused and aggressive and (dare I say it?) stubborn. They are also people. Tired, pushed, and aware. And they want to achieve what you do.
Guess what? You need to take this October to understand their training, their battle, and swear to come along side and cheer. And sign on as training partners. Offer experiential advice. Offer support. Offer water. And see the mud in their lives as a sign of their mammoth achievement, not as a sign that you are better or different. See it as a sign that you should give your respect. Offer camaraderie, not pity. They don't need that any more than a rock in their shoe. If all you are going to do is stick rocks in their socks and put obstacles in their way, get out. And know this, when they overcome your barriers, which they will, you won't be making them look bad, you will look small and selfish, and they will look triumphant.
So. Forget awareness. Sign on for appreciation or celebration. Or accept that your life will be the less for not "accepting" them.