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Learning About Our Differences Together

I am a proud mother of 5 children and any time either one of them have a question whether it’s about their homework or relationships, they come to me first. It’s actually something I cherish. Our family has had to have some difficult conversations in the past which I give credit to making us as close as we are today.

My middle child Maddie (child #3) was born with what’s known as Down Syndrome. When Maddie blessed our home, my husband and I had several questions of our own. We read countless books and spoke with a family counselor to make sure we learned as much as possible to provide Maddie with the best life possible.

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As a few years past, my two older children were beginning to notice differences between themselves and Maddie. They began asking so many questions and at times became frustrated because of their differences.

One question that bothered me personally until I learned more about it was the given title “Down Syndrome”. Why would someone give this disease such a negative name? I soon learned the disease was actually named after the doctor who discovered it, Doctor John Langdon Down. I make sure to politely share that any time I overhear someone “making fun” of my Maddie. It hurts to admit that I first had to make that explanation in my own home, but there was a lot of learning for all of us to do including myself.

I have been a witness to several moments in Maddie’s life where she was teased and ridiculed directly to her face. One memory comes to mind where Maddie was being teased at a park near our home when her older siblings were right there at her aid, but in a way that surprised me.

First, my kids made sure Maddie was okay. Second, they politely corrected the “bullies” by expressing that it’s ok to be different but it’s not okay to belittle or put anyone down because of those differences. It was a proud mom moment for me. I speak for my entire family when I say we wouldn’t be the people we are today without Maddie. All of us have an appreciation for people’s differences and have learned to pull from one another’s strengths.

Here’s a quote from Aundrea M. Peaslee, MA LCPC LMFT: Meridian Counseling Center “We all have our differences — Everyone is different and we should teach our kids– no matter how a person differs from us, we still are to love and respect them. Some people’s’ differences are more visible than others. This principle can help with a child’s self esteem. Kids need to understand that even though we are all different and have flaws, we are still lovable and accepted. This concept frees us from feelings of shame and sadness that we all struggle with at times. It is OK to be different. It is OK to not be perfect. No one is and that’s OK.”

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