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Mum of Down Syndrome child writes an open letter “To the other mum in the waiting room…” However she never expected people to jump to the woman’s defence.

Love What Matters Facebook page shared Dana’s open letter the other mum in the waiting room. It begins, “Our conversation started out naturally enough. We were both sitting in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office for the Saturday morning clinic for children who are sick. You were there with your beautiful 20-month-old daughter who had a rash. I was there with my precious 10-month-old son who had a yucky-sounding cough. I’m sure both of us had things we would have rather been doing on a Saturday morning, but we were making the best of it.

Dana continues, Waiting rooms can often be eerily silent places as people are buried in their smartphones and magazines, or as they simply stare straight ahead, avoiding eye contact with another stranger. I was pleased that you responded well to my initiative to strike up a friendly conversation. We chatted back and forth about our children and made some general small talk as we each waited for our child’s name to be called…

But then a few simple phrases seemed to change everything.

I mentioned that our family was looking forward to celebrating my oldest child’s 7th birthday that weekend. You smiled and said, “Seven? Oh, I bet he loves to help with the baby!”

Now at this point, I had a choice to make. I could smile and move on, or I could be real about the different dynamics our family experiences in this area. I love to talk about my kids, and I love opportunities to help create awareness about Down syndrome, so I decided to be real.

Smiling back at you, I started to share, “Well, actually, my son has special needs…”

Before I could go further, you quickly interjected, “Oh! I’m sorry!”

I’m always a bit taken aback when people apologize to me concerning my child, but I continued on.

“It’s fine. He has Down syndrome, and…”

Once again, you cut me off with another sympathetic, “I’m sorry!”

This time I was a little more direct. “It’s nothing to be sorry about. We love him so much, and he has taught us so much! He’s just not at a place yet to be able to help with the baby.”

In response you smiled uncomfortably and busied yourself with your daughter. A moment later you picked up a pamphlet from the side table and started to flip through the pages. It was becoming increasingly clear our friendly conversation had come to an end.

Let me first say — I am not angry with you. I believe you had no ill-intentions, and you were not trying to offend in any way. I am not angry with you, but I am saddened by your response. As I told you, the fact that my son has Down syndrome is nothing to be sorry about. If only you would have allowed me to continue, I could have told you why.

I could have told you my little boy’s life is such a precious gift, especially considering that the doctors and nurses in the NICU didn’t expect him to survive. I cannot imagine my life without him today.

I could have told you what a little overcomer he is after facing numerous health complications, including open-heart surgery, and the fact that he is healthy and thriving today.

I could have told you what a champion he is — working so hard to reach various developmental milestones, and I could have shared with you the incredible celebration that has accompanied each one. I am so proud of him!

I could have told you about his contagious smile, his delightful laughter and his wholehearted affection. My son carries such joy.

I could have told you about his unique personality, and some of his favourite things that include Elmo, “The Wheels on the Bus” and stuffed animal monkeys.

And yes, I could have told you about the challenges we have faced, but I also could have told you that each one has carried with it an opportunity to learn, grow and discover what I believe is the heart of God in brand new ways.

I could have told you our journey may look different than some (then again, whose life journey ever looks the same?), and that it carries its own unique beauty. I would not be the person I am today if I had not had the privilege of walking this road.

I could have told you so much…

And hopefully your discomfort would have dissolved, and you would have been able to see that my son is not something to apologize for… he is someone of immense value — a good gift I will always treasure!

So, today, as I remember our short encounter, I bless you, and I pray you will have opportunities in the future to truly see and know the person behind the disability. I promise you, your life will be enriched!

‪#‎LoveWhatMatters‬
Written by Dana Hemminger”

Chain reaction

The post has attracted lots of attention with over 1 4K reactions and nearly 900 comments.

Many of the comments actually suggest that Dana could have approached the subject better and in fact it was the way she went about the discussion that created the issues.

One commenter wrote, “Maybe you were a bit short on understanding on your part as to her saying I am sorry. Maybe she was sorry she had jumped to conclusions about your sons ability to help? Maybe she was not apologizing for your sons mental condition but for her actions.”

Another replied, “The context of you telling her was in answer to her “I bet he loves to help with the baby”. You then answer that he’s special needs. Perhaps if you would have said “he helps in his own special way. He has Down syndrome” and then explained she might have reacted differently. She may have felt bad that she had made the statement and not considered that perhaps he could not help with the baby. He is adorable and perfect in every way and she may have thought that too but was reacting to how you reacted to her statement.”

Another wrote, “I think you lost her when you said “well actually, my son has special needs.” You could have said it a bit differently, as another poster stated above, saying something to the nature of him helping out in his own way or perhaps a “not quite there yet!”

You probably made her feel defensive and self-conscious with your reply.”

and another said “She was trying to make polite conversation, give her a break. Not everyone in the world needs to know every detail about your life. I think people sometimes try to use every opportunity they have to stand on a soapbox.”

Do you think we get a bit caught up in emotion when talking about our children? Was this mum right in her reaction?

Share your comments below.

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  • It’s hard to know if the “other lady” was even uncomfortable or as I sometimes in waiting rooms with people have some chit chat but am not interested in talking the whole time I am in the waiting room. I like flicking through the magazines that I never buy, I like to have some quiet time and as interested as I am in other people I don’t always want to get to know them any further than the polite chit chat. I”m sorry this mum felt as though it was because she stated her son was special needs and how this affected her but it may not have been about that at all.

    Reply

  • I think there’s no right or wrong here, we all react differently and the way we react tells a bit where we’re at with certain issues in our life.
    The story here is written out the perspective of the mum with the child with Down syndrome who feels misunderstood, the story could have been written out of the perspective of the other mum as well who also seemed to feel misunderstood.
    Our ability to really listen and relate to people on our road results in that feel of connection or misunderstanding/loneliness when we/the other doesn’t have that ability or doesn’t get the space to do so. Lots of dynamics going on in communication and relationships.

    Reply

  • I’m not sure. I’m almost thinking that that woman jumped to soon to a conclusion. Maybe in what she said she put her thoughts about what other people may think about kids with Down Syndrome. But it doesn’t mean that the mother of that girl had those thoughts. Don’t know…

    Reply

  • These open letters are just another killer for small talk. No one talks to other much already, now more people will probably be worried they will be written about in a public forum for saying something simple. It also sounds like the woman had a chip on her shoulder well before the other lady said “I’m sorry.” What are you supposed to say when someone points out their child has a condition, “Oh that’s lovely.” or something?

    Reply

  • People are quick to jump and write open letters these days. All too frequent. And now she’s upset she didn’t get the response she wanted. She jumped to conclusions and was quite confronting with her approach, what did she expect?

    Reply

  • I think the mum that wrote the story was a bit over the top. I don’t think the other mum meant anything

    Reply

  • I completely agree with the Mother of the Downs child. My brother also has Downs Syndrome and he has always been the most wonderful loving brother you could hope to have. When we were children, we always laughed at the people {mainly adults} who had negative reactions, just because he looked different. It really unnerved the adults to be openly laughed at by children. I think a lot of it had to do with their inability to get cross with us because then they would have to acknowledge why we were laughing. I hope my story will at least put a smile on your face the next time you encounter an apologist {or worse}.

    Reply

  • Yeah, I agree with the comments. Many people automatically say “I’m sorry” when anything uncomfortable is raised – death, divorce, disability… It’s a conversational placeholder. Or perhaps she has personal experience of raising a Child with a disability, and knows that sometimes it’s bloody hard – and was offering empathy for that.

    Reply

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