Thursday, 20 December 2012

From tears to tears - Gangnam Style!

Well what a week! I think I have visited every emotion possible, one by one, tweaked its nose and run off before it had chance to respond!
  • Tears and sadness - shared with parents of the children horifically taken from them in the shooting at Sandy Hook School, Newtown, Connecticut
  • Frustration - at work with not enough time to fit in everything I would like to have done before the Christmas break
  • Delight - as Rotherham United make it to the 3rd round of the FA Cup for the first time in 9 years (it's the little things in life that make the difference!)
  • Pride - as I thought upon the way my eldest daughter is making a life for herself over in North Carolina and maturing into a beautiful young woman of determination, faith and courage
  • Worry - over things I shouldn't be worrying about
  • Surprise - as my son came home for Christmas a week earlier than expected
Then came anger - a deep deep anger - which took me by surprise because I wasn't expecting it. However, sometimes we are overwhelmed by emotions which come from so far within us you have to just take some time to stand back and understand what is happening. Then, as reasonable adults and parents, it's our responsibility to take control of our response. Anger when out of control is frightening, damaging and destructive; like a tornado ready to blow through whatever gets in the way or an eruption from a volcano, the pyroclastic flow surging down the mountain destroying all in its path. This uncontrolled anger never achieves anything except a temporary relief; a hiatus, but then the rebuilding work has to begin.

What caused my anger? The comments made by Geoffrey Clark - a 66 year old man standing as a candidate for UKIP in local council elections in Kent. I am sure by now you will know of Mr Clark's outrageous personal manifesto suggesting, amongst other things, that any review of NHS spending should consider the compulsory termination of a pregnancy when the baby is known to have Down's syndrome. Bewilderment followed. Could it really be that there are people living in this country, or anywhere, who even think such thoughts, never mind commit them to print? 

I have read many responses to Mr Clark's manifesto and I will not publish what I think of him or his thoughts. There are others, far more eloquent than I, who have already responded beautifully, yet indignantly, and anything I say would add nothing of value that hasn't already been said. However, what does need to be said is a massive well done to those who have spoken up. Those parents who have controlled their anger - I'm sure having needed to take many deep breaths first - and responded to put Mr Clark firmly in his place, yet they have spoken the language of love, joy and compassion. Their words painted a picture of our world, where we are far richer people for having a child with Down's syndrome. Pity Mr Clark's poverty. So today I am proud to belong to such a wonderful global family where my brothers and sisters are people I may never know and never meet.

Oh yes, almost forgot, joy and laughter. As I mentioned last time, Emily loves music and as we were in Sainsbury's this evening the music in the store was playing a track by the Korean artist PSY and before I knew what was happening Emily was singing and doing a full-on Gangnam Style dance - absolutely brilliant - she made me laugh out loud in the middle of the shop she was so good. I had no idea she even knew the song. There she goes again, teaching me that there is so much more to her than I know. And I've gone full circle from tears of pain and sadness to tears of love and laughter. Next week may be a quieter week, but then's Christmas!

Have a fantastic Christmas and a peaceful (fat chance) New Year!

Emily with sister Laura

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Look at the sky.....

I was driving up the M1 recently with my wife alongside me. We had been on our journey about an hour and had been chatting about the day and what tomorrow might hold when suddenly a voice shouted from the back seat of the car, "Look at the sky - it's orange Juice flavour!"

The voice belonged to our youngest daughter Emily. Emily is 20 years old and has Down's syndrome.

Until that point of the journey Emily had, as usual, been completely absorbed by the music on her iPod. She rarely gets distracted by anything in such circumstances. However, on this occasion Emily was so taken with the beautiful September sunset that she had to draw our attention to it.

Immediately we looked and saw what was a sensational bright orange sky which seemed to colour the length of the western horizon and was stunning. Isn't it amazing that we adults often take such things for granted and it takes someone who the world would label as having a learning disability to point out the beauty in the simplest of things. I'm not sure Emily has a learning disability; I think she has a different way of learning to you and I and perhaps the things I need to learn are the things she already knows! However, it is so important that as parents we don't do all the teaching. We need to be prepared to learn from our children. We need to be prepared to be humble; we don't know everything. Our mindsets, preconceptions and perspectives all need to be challenged and redefined by the things we learn from each other.

I decided to start a blog, however basic, to capture some of the things I have learned, and will continue to learn, from Emily. By sharing them I hope that you are encouraged and as you and I travel along our own journeys, make sure you listen to the voice that shouting from the backseat and look at the sky.