It’s something most parents with atypical children experience. Normal is boring until it comes to kids, and then if your child is any different from other people’s children, you and yours become the objects of scrutiny.
There are plenty of well-meaning but poorly versed individuals who don’t know how to deal with difference. The stares, the whispers, the blunt comments — they sting.
Especially to the parents, who know their kids are every bit as wonderful as any other parent’s child.
Pamela De Almeida has two daughters. Her youngest, Sophia, has Down syndrome.
Because of this, she is all too familiar with the snippy remarks and blatant ogling that strangers doled out: these people who knew nothing about her or her daughter let their judgment seep into their words and actions, and it hurt.
She was out recently at a coffee shop when she felt that familiar feeling. Someone was watching her daughter.
Two women were, actually. And they were either oblivious to the discomfort they were causing or worse, they didn’t care.
“I sat there and watched these two women crane their necks to get a better look at her,” she later wrote on Facebook, “completely oblivious to the fact that I was staring right back.
“Today it bothered me. It really bothered me.”
Frustrated, the mom was wary when another couple approached her. She’d heard it all before — what would it be this time?
But her concern couldn’t have been more unfounded. Because this time, for once, someone wanted to validate, not judge.
As she watched, the man went right up to Sophia and addressed her, saying hi with a handshake and a high five. No stares, no whispers, just kindness and recognition.
Then he asked De Almeida something she was not expecting: “I have a story I would really like to share with you. But I am afraid I wont get through it without choking up.”
He proceeded to detail a program he’d seen on television, about a mother with a Down syndrome baby who’d had to defend her reasons for keeping the child when seemingly every voice urged her to terminate.
“The point is,” she later recounted him saying, “you never know a persons (sic) impact on the world. You can never know what a person is able to do unless you give them a chance.”
But then, he left her with a parting thought that would stick with her: “You are a beautiful person. Your daughter is beautiful. Congratulations!”
The overwhelmed mother lost her composure — and for good reason. As she wrote, “He was the first complete stranger to recognize her WORTH. Her VALUE. Her BEAUTY.
“In a world where my daughter’s life is whispered about, where she is stared at, this man saw her IMPORTANCE.”
You never know how much a few words spoken in sincerity, love, and recognition can mean to a person. So if you see an opportunity to say something that you believe someone might need to hear, follow this wonderful gentleman’s lead and take it!
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