Wednesday, September 15, 2004

God Bless You, Honey

As a first time parent, I have a hard time telling if the way people react to me is typical or is because I have a special child.

Lots and lots and lots of people (read: women) come up to me and tell me what a beautiful daughter I have. I say, "Thank you! I think so too, but of course I'm biased." I like those comments. It was months before I realized that while Ellie is of course especially beautiful, some of the comments might have something to do with the fact that she obviously has Down syndrome. People want to say something supportive, but what to say?! In these situations it's hard to tell how they mean those comments since I don't have much experience with taking other babies to the grocery store/playgroup/voting booth.

Sometimes it's pretty obvious, though. When Paul's parents were here visiting they wanted to eat at Cracker Barrel. After dinner, while they were still chatting, Ellie and I got up to walk around the store and blow off some steam. An old man came up to us, leaned in very close, and said, "God bless you, Honey." I knew what he meant. I probably should have responded, "I feel like God already has."

You know, most of the time I'm not thinking about how hard my life is, with a "special needs" child, so those comments are like a surprise elbow in the ribs as I realize how other people are seeing my daughter, seeing me. Most of the time I'm thinking that I wish she'd nap longer, cut this tooth, or grow out of spitting up. Of course, I'm not in denial so I don't mind talking about Ellie's Downs and I bring it up in context when appropriate. For instance, when we're talking about flu shots for the babies, I might mention how kids with Down syndrome are usually slightly immuno-suppressed so it's great if they can avoid the flu for the their first couple of years. That sort of thing.

In addition to:
Your baby is so beautiful!
What incredible blue eyes/blond hair!
and of course, God bless you, Honey,

I also get a lot of variations on this theme:
See, you're really strong and you're doing a great job with this. I could never handle it, which is why God didn't give me a child like Ellie.

My silent response: Bullshit.

8 comments:

AishAh Amin said...

hey.. im sure ur baby's beautiful. ive got a lovely 9 yr old sister wif down's. yep. ignore all those other people. smile always.

Krupskaya said...

Oh, what a crappy thing to say, Sarahlynn! (The comment about how God didn't give me a child with Down's because I can't handle it.)

I have to admit that if I see a woman with a baby who has some sort of special need, I try to make a point of commenting on how beautiful the baby is -- which isn't hard, because all babies are beautiful, of course. :p But living in a rural area, I worry that they might feel isolated or more visible than in an urban or suburban area.

This post has certainly shown me that thought process is pretty condescending, though! But I am one of those people who likes to comment on babies and talk with the moms no matter what, so I'll probably keep doing it. This post will make me think more about my motives, though.

Also, FYI: I've had old people say "God bless you" meaningfully too, especially when I was pregnant. There's really nothing nice to say to that without sounding like someone's just sneezed.

Sarahlynn said...

Oh, I don't mean to complain! I love it when people tell me how beautiful Ellie is. And I can often tell when it's someone trying to be supportive versus someone who's just uncomfortable. It's strange how uncomfortable Ellie makes some adults. Kids don't seem to care, one way or another!

Corey said...

As a fellow cynic I can understand your thought process. So many times people feel like they need to encourage you to be a mother of your "special" child. As if without their blessings your going to abandon the child or do something else equally stupid.

It's hard to look at the best side of what people say, but I'm trying.

And that "God knew I couldn't handle it" comment is bullshit.

Grace said...

I don't think there is any question about Ellie being beautiful. She's quite honestly one of the most gorgeous little girls I've ever seen.

Sarahlynn said...

Thank you!

Elblog said...

IMHO, as the parent of another beautiful girl like yours, it's hard not to be paranoid, to take any comment based upon how I feel at the time, not necessarily how it was intended. I've probably met some well-meaning remarks with a glare. I have been amazed and appalled my entire life by those who always feel that they have to say *something*, no matter how inane.
What I absolutely love, is when another member of this club identifies themself to me, or introduces me to their child. I don't have to explain a thing.

trisha said...

Hi! I have a four-year-old autistic son, and I hear many, many strange comments.

I like *any* comment over appalled or frightened stares.

Really like your blog!