Most days Owen is a pretty happy kid. He likes going to school, he enjoys playing outside at home and he has a great time swimming at the Y. Put on any kind of ball game on the TV and he's in 7th heaven.
But sometimes, he has a bad day. You know why? Because he's human and we all have them. Sometimes we just wake up grouchy or something at work sets us off.
Last week Owen was at his swim lesson and about 20 minutes into the lesson, all he wanted to do was hang out in the pool and do "his thing". He was in a grouchy mood having woken himself up early from his nap. I even contemplated before his lesson whether he should go, but I thought once he got into the water, his mood might be changed.
But it didn't and he decided that it was time to throw a little fit and be non-compliant with his instructor's directions. He began crying because all he wanted to do was leave the lap pool and chill in the warm slide pool. It became evident to me that his attitude wasn't going to change, so I asked him if he needed to be all done or if he wanted to finish his work. He signed "all done" and started waving to the instructor through his massive crocodile tears.
When we were getting him out of the pool, the swim instructors (there were two--one for Owen and one for the other young boy taking a lesson alongside Owen) and the lifeguard all commented "He's never like that! He's always so happy!" as if the world was going to end because Owen decided to.......heaven help us........show more than one emotion.
And that's the thing about these myths surrounding people with Down syndrome. No matter how much we parents try to burst those bubbles, people still believe them and perpetuate them, which is even worse. So that when a kiddo with Down syndrome has the audacity to be grouchy or say something unkind or act like a normal 5 year old who doesn't want to do what is requested of him, people act like it's the end of the world or worse--that the child is uncontrollable, volatile, unstable, not capable of being with his typical peers or that his parents are doing a bad job. Do they ever think that maybe he is simply being a person who is communicating his wants? That it is unfair to always assume that someone is happy 100% of the time without any other emotions present? If more people thought about their own reactions to things that happen in their lives that disappoint them, make them sad, make them angry, maybe then they would realize that pegging someone into a pretty small hole is wrong and it robs that person of truly being a human being.
I did let Owen cry for a few minutes and let the swim instructor try to engage him back into the lesson because I wanted her to see that Owen is a person with feelings and that even though he normally loves something, it's OK for him to have a bad day. I wanted her to learn how to work through that with a child that wasn't at his best because I can guarantee that she is going to encounter that again, maybe even with a kiddo without a disability. Yes, I cut the lesson short because I knew that he wasn't going to cooperate any further, but I hope my reaction of giving Owen a choice and letting him make a decision for himself showed them that he is a person who is capable of communicating his feelings.
"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"---L.M. Montgomery ("Anne of Green Gables")