With the birth of my first two sons came a whole set of expectations. Indeed before we had even left the hospital my boys had found a cure for cancer, won a Nobel Peace Prize, an olympic Gold Medal, and were great humanitarians…at least in my mind. With those ideas and a perceived limitless potential, I set about giving them books, and instruments, and lessons, and every thing I could think of that would cultivate a desire to learn.
We have had wild successes and epic failures, but even after falling short, I never lose the expectation that it is nothing more than a bump in the road on their way to becoming good, happy, and successful men.
The birth of my third son began the same with all of the expectations. He would certainly be beautiful and demonstrate his early test taking skills by killing his Apgar scores. He was and he did. I had already decided I would not let him fall into the “baby of the family trap,” as independence is highly valued in this every man for himself household of 4 males. Yes, he would be independent and intelligent beyond his years, able to hold his own and make his presence known. He is and he does.
What I did not expect were the words “Down syndrome,” and all the air-sucking trauma of hearing them applied to my son.
In that moment we had to decide. What was our mission? If it was to have a son who could only ever be what the specialists were telling us he was capable of, then he most certainly would never have the chance to be more.
We decided that day that we were the only ones who had the right to think our children were special, everyone else must give them equal opportunities. And if we allowed our son those opportunities with an expectation of success, if we could get over our own fear and dare to put his future in his hands, then we would find the tools to make it a reality.
Even if we are horribly wrong, Lucas still wins. He will grow up with full expectations, parents who believe in him, unconditional love, and an unwavering sense of self.
As if possessed by the mission, I set about moving furniture out of rooms so he could spend the entire day on his belly. We would all go in and get on the floor to read, do homework, play board games, etc. The message was clear, you want it, you get it. I loved his tiny little head sticking straight up because he heard his older brothers reading. Or the absolute determination with which he crept across the floor to get his favorite book.
The four years that followed were filled with tons of beyond age expectations (such as using a spoon at 6 months!) and stunned silence when Lucas proved he could master the task.
At this juncture we have another looming decision. Do we put our child who is of above average intelligence, able to read, cut with scissors, run 1/2 mile, use manners that put my 10 year old to shame, and play memory reading countries and capitals of Africa (to name just a few things Lucas can do), in a classroom where there is an immediate expectation of slowness, naivete, behavioral needs, health issues (yes, we took the same natural and progressive view of his health and Lucas has not been ill in over 2 years), and difficulty learning?
Not a chance. I believe my child is extremely intelligent. He is capable of learning anything I teach him, including math, our newest endeavor. He is healthy, strong, independent, funny, and responsible. He will learn, because I will teach him.
That is our mission!