When you have a baby who is diagnosed with Down syndrome, well-meaning people offer all sorts of platitudes. One of the most popular is “God gives special children to special parents” or some similar version of this sentiment. I’ve always known this to be a load of crap, because: (a) there ain’t no invisible, magic guy in the sky with a plan, and (b) “special” kids do, in fact, very often end up with really awful parents. Today, I was introduced to the blog of one such parent, and I am saddened and sickened by this troubled woman (who is apparently pregnant, which makes the situation all the more appalling) and the suffering of an eleven-year old girl with Down syndrome.
The woman is the girl’s step-mother, and she is full of anger – rage, even – and resentment and contempt for this little girl. Now, personally, I have always thought that it must take a certain kind of person to be able to open up one’s heart to someone else’s kid and love that kid as their own. My own husband did it; Kevin was four when Michael and I got married, and Michael has been a committed father to him for all these years. My dad’s second wife resented me and my brothers and really never made a secret of it, so I know what that feels like – and we never even lived with her, she just managed to get her resentment across on occasional afternoon and weekend visits. I’m sure that being a step-parent has its own set of built-in challenges; I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to take on someone else’s kids, to inherit them when they’re not even cute babies anymore. But meanness is uncalled for, and cruelty is inexcusable.
The fact of the matter is, whenever it is a relationship between an adult and a child, it is the adult who carries the responsibility for making the relationship work. If it is not possible for a step-parent to love a step-child, that step-parent has a responsibility, nevertheless, to treat that child with kindness and compassion. One may not be able to control what is in one’s heart, but one can control how one behaves and treats other human beings.
This is a person who gives Christianity a bad name. She seems to use God as a crutch, and she seems to have this fucked up belief that she is absolved because Jesus is her champion.
Even more sadly, it doesn’t seem that she has such hatred for the little girl because she’s not her own flesh and blood, no. She has such contempt for her because she has Down syndrome.
Many of her commenters seem to be supportive of her, telling her how hard it must be, and how brave she is for sharing so honestly. (She’s also deleting negative comments – mine, for instance.) The fact is, loving someone with Down syndrome – indeed, loving someone who is different – is not an act of charity, nor is it heroic. There is nothing noble about having compassion and recognizing someone’s humanity. It’s called being a human being. And there is nothing brave about sharing such ugly thoughts and behavior – ballsy, maybe, but brave? No.
Listen, Jessica: there is a whole community of parents out here who are very concerned about that little girl’s well-being. And we’re all watching you now.