Thursday, June 4, 2009

What Set You Claimin'?

I know I'm far from the first person to think of this, but we totally need a literal sign of solidarity within the Ds community.

Before Playette became a part of my life, I didn't really see people with Ds, it was more like I saw through them.

When we received her diagnosis, one of the first things I did was cry about how I'd treated people just like my newborn baby girl in the past.

What about my former roommate's little brother? I still remember making a comment about not wanting him to sleep in my guest room because I was afraid that he'd wet the bed. (I've since apologized even though she had no idea what I was talking about.)

And the lady from church's adult daughter? We went to dinner one night as a group and I don't think I said one word to her. None of us did.

How about the fact that I signed up to be a hugger for the Special Olympics every year in high school and never followed though because the idea made me uncomfortable? Instead, it was an excuse to skip school since no one was expecting me to be around.

Then there's the time I met my friend's cousin's newborn baby for the first time. Mom was 19, I think. I was a few years older. "Oh, she's pretty?" I said. I must have sounded surprised because my friend replied, "What did you expect?"

That still brings tears to my eyes. To this day, I feel bad about these things.

But as time has gone on, I see how different I've become.

I now seek out people with Ds.

I want to know them.

Last spring, we went to Las Vegas. Before heading in to see the dolphins, I saw her. Screaming her little head off. And there was mom, right behind the stroller, looking exasperated. At that moment, I wanted so badly to show her that I was with her. Maybe not in dealing with a toddler's tantrum, but that I had walked steps that she had walked and that we were linked in a way that made us sisters even though we'd never met.

Noting that it wasn't the best time, I kept moving, but I was hoping that I'd see them again.

Then there was the airport in Mexico. We had a very long wait for a delayed flight home and I hadn't seen one other person with Ds the entire week. I commented about this to BD only to shortly be proven wrong as not one, but two, families came through the security line and into the waiting area within the next hour.

But what to do?

If you're BD, you mind your business and hope that your wife doesn't persist to make a fool of herself. Again.

Poor guy.

You know I couldn't leave well enough alone. One family had a young daughter and I felt such a pull.

It was a pretty small area so I found them quickly. I got nervous though, so I went back to my seat. For a little while. Then I got up again, went up to where they were sitting and said something. I don't remember what exactly, but I had rehearsed it and it sounded pretty good in my head at the time.

The mom told me that her daughter was 12 and then asked about mine. I told her that she was sitting with her father and that I'd be glad to introduce her. She said she'd come by later and she (eventually) did. (Mom didn't seem as into this exchange as I was.)

Did I ever feel foolish.

The next time I decided to stalk a complete stranger was back in Vegas again. It was a few months ago when I went on a spur-of-the-moment one night get-away. On Monday, a friend and I went to the food court for lunch. Right by us was a family with three children, the youngest a little girl with Ds.

I kept glancing at her and talked to my friend about how I would love to go up and say hello. I can't explain why I feel this is necessary, but for all the things I've gone through that show how different we are as a family sometimes (see: yesterday's post), there are people that relate to those differences and an understanding smile from one of them means so much.

Anyway, so we finish our lunch and walk by them on our way back to the pool. Again, I mention how I wish I could just say something. Friend says, "Well, do it then!"

So I did.

This time, I said something along the lines of, "Your daughter reminds me of my daughter." What I wasn't prepared for was her to reply, "Which one?"

Doh. Didn't think that one through all the way. One boy, two girls.

I became more specific and the mom gives me the smile I was looking for. She then asks me where my daughter is. I explain that I'm alone on this trip and she proceeds to tell me about another family they met the night before in the casino and how it's great that we're all in this "secret club."

Exactly.

She understood.

Then, a few weeks ago, when I was in NY waiting to go in to see The Little Mermaid, I was startled when my aunt walked up because I had been watching this little girl with Ds so intently. She was with someone who could have been her mother and she was so excited and I was happy that she was happy and it made me look forward to the days that I could enjoy such things with Playette.

Even when I'm sitting at my desk at work, I find opportunities to show how "down" I am, literally. There's this guy who works here, Mr. P, I'll call him. Every afternoon, he walks by at least a half-dozen times as he completes his tasks. Almost every time, I go, "Hi, Mr. P!" "Hi," he says. When I ask him how he's doing, he always says "Fine." It's only when he gets really outraged that I hear him say much. Let one of his co-workers do something they're not supposed to do and he goes off!

Anyway, so one day BD brings Playette up here to surprise me. I get excited because Mr. P is around so I ask him, "Mr. P, do you want to see my baby?"

"No."

Well, alright.

I still laugh when I think about that.

I debate telling Mr. P almost every day about what he and Playette have in common. It hasn't happened yet, but maybe one day.

Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to be afraid or nervous or anything? And we'd know right away if someone was in our not-so "secret club" or not? There'd be no need for explanation and even if you're child/sibling/friend wasn't with you, you could still use it to say, "I'm 'down'"?

Maybe if we all shared our ideas, it could turn into something? Who knows.

For example:

2
+

1
=

K?


Ok, so maybe that can stand for...karyotype?

Womp, womp.

No?

What about...

D
+

S
=

Something that looks kinda like a fancy "ok" sign


We'd only use the combinations of the two signs when greeting one another. You know, like a gang. Or something.

Really, that's all I've got.

Creativity is not my strong suit.

Plus, my cell phone camera is crappy and it takes forever to get these photos done and loaded.

I'd love to hear any ideas you have. Trust me, they can't be any worse than what I've posted here.

If you post something on your own blog, leave a link in the comments so I can check it out!

Update

9 comments:

ks_kristi said...

Oddly enough this happens to me and I still have yet to figure out what the correct way to approach strangers is. I want to but I just can't put my finger on why I hesitate.

Your gang signs are great BTW!

datri said...

I'm a complete DS stalker. It's a good thing The Hubs doesn't really go out with us much, because he's not so into the disability thing.

I usually say something like, "oh, you're daughter's beautiful, my daughter has Down syndrome, too!" Makes it easier if she's around to point to, LOL.

I always go out of my way to say hello to the bagger with DS at the supermarket, also. He never seems to be around when I have Kayla with me, tho.

Michelle said...

HAHAHA - oh my. I thought I had it bad, but I guess because I don't travel enough, I haven't been stalking a wide enough area!

I like Datri's answer. I'll have to rehearse it... I usually end up rambling like a fool.

We TOTALLY need a secret hand signal!

Wendy P said...

LOVE IT! I usually say, "I think our kids have something in common" or something ridiculous like that.

When we were trick or treating last year, there was a house where a woman and her son were handing out candy. I'd say he was probably in his early thirties and had Ds.

I grinned at the mom and said, "My daughter has Down syndrome, too!" She just kind of nodded at me like, "oooo-k." All of my other "we're in the same club" conversations have turned out really well, though.

Chrystal - I'm so glad and thankful that our daughters let us be in the same gang!

sheree said...

okay, we're going to brainstorm this weekend. I'll need you to tach me those fancy signs ;)

sheree said...

oh and PS- I am also a total Ds stalker. I NEVER let it go. I will straight up chase folks down! ;)

Mommy to those Special Ks said...

OMG your story about Mr. P. TOTALLY made me laugh out loud! LOL I'm still laughing! I can totally see it happening! LOL Ahhhh!

I'm a complete Ds stalker too! LOL Frank just rolls his eyes at me now and says "go on" because he knows we're not leaving wherever we are until I talk to them! LOL Yes, we definitely need a universal sign! LOL I usually just say, "I see you have an angel too!" And I've never gotten a bad response from that. They've always known exactly what I meant. So far.

Kanuck said...

Psst, that's the letter "F," not "D" if you're going with ASL fingerspelling.

I do like the idea of gang-signals, though!

DownTownDan said...

You...are...awesome! This blog is brilliant!!! I'm hooked!