I have a beautiful granddaughter, M. I’m sorry to have to tell other grandparents that despite how gorgeous your grandkids are, mine are the cutest and most gorgeous. M is just perfect in every way; an enchanting smile and giggle, the longest eye lashes you’ve seen in your life and a twinkle in her eye that tells me she’s got a wicked sense of humour and she’s gonna torment her grandad for years to come…and I can’t wait!
Of course you may see things differently. Whilst obviously wrong J, you may think that your children or grandchildren are the cutest.
You won’t know about M if you’ve never met her. I can tell you about her but until you meet her you won’t know her. And vice versa. Your little darling may win awards for cute but my experience of him/her will never be the same if I never meet them.
I was with M the other day, she’s nearly two, an inquisitive age; the adventure of life is just starting for her. She’s exploring, seeking out hidden things, she’s realised that if you open your eyes, move around, lift closed lids, turn some pages and pull tantalisingly close handles there are untold treasures to be discovered. Sometimes it’s a good surprise, sometimes it’s not. Life is all about learning when you’re nearly two. I was taking photographs of M and her new baby brother and she was busying herself and entertaining us as she did so. She spied my camera bag and went to investigate. Lifting the lid she found an empty space where my camera goes but next to it she saw something she’d not seen before – binoculars.
It’s interesting when you stand back and watch, this little girl knew instinctively what to do. She put the binoculars up towards her eyes and when I moved towards her she giggled and pulled them away. We repeated this until what seemed like a week later, she never got bored of the game and I never got bored of hearing her giggle. Beautiful.
The funny thing was, she had the binoculars the wrong way round; she was seeing things in a completely different way to the way they were manufactured to be used. But they brought joy to M anyway. Why? Because she had no preconceived ideas about what they were or what they were for. She just accepted them for what they were and they made her giggle.
I had witnessed with my own eyes the glorious beauty of humanity wrapped up in the giggle of a 23 month old infant.
I’ve actually got goosebumps as I sit at my keyboard typing this.
M discovered what so-called wise men, philosophers and ethicists have long since forgotten – to appreciate and accept at face value the simple pleasures life brings if only you are prepared to lift the lid, turn the corner or look through the wrong lens.
I see this simple humanity in Emily; in both the way she looks at the world and the way that she makes me look at the world. It’s as though the world view of Down’s syndrome is that it is foolish to bring someone with Down’s syndrome into the world; philosophers and perceived wisdom would have us believe that we are somehow diluting humanity by allowing those with learning disability to be born. How else would we end up with 90% of babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted? Some of them between 24 and 40 weeks.
But I’ve seen what they don’t see, that it’s the foolish things of the world that shame the wise. Have you seen that?
“But what about the future of the human race?” asks the geneticist determined to do all he can to bring eugenics in through the back door just to prove what a great scientist he is. “If the human race is to stay strong we need to get rid of the weak.”
But I’ve seen what the scientist and the ethicist and their friends don’t see; that the weak things of the world shame the strong. Have you seen that too?
I would go so far as to say that for the survival of humanity we need those that appear to be weak and vulnerable more than they need us in fact. They are indispensable to the survival of humanity as we know it. Seriously do you want to live in a world where everything goes to plan, where we laugh when we’re told to, when live like robots in some kind of Stepford hell?
Or do you want the joy of a giggle from looking own the wrong end of the binoculars?
Do you want your heart to burst with pride because your son has kicked a ball for the first time when everyone said he’d never be able to do it?
Do you want to be stopped dead in your tracks when your daughter tells you with all sincerity and earnestness that you are the best dad in the world and that she loves you 100%.
Yes there are struggles and challenges but that, my friends, is called being a parent. We get no guarantees as to what our children will be capable of doing, both good and not so good, whether they have a disability or not. They will each draw a tear and a smile.
Emily makes me see life differently. As we drove home last night she said, “Look at the sunset, it’s glorious and victorious!” How else could you describe it for goodness sake! I’m happy to look at life through the wrong end of the binoculars just like M, because I get to see life another way. I rejoice because I get to see what so many don’t; the foolish things in the world’s eyes shaming the wise; the weak things in the world’s eyes shaming the strong.
If you know someone with Down’s syndrome, if you’re glad they’re alive, glad they’re in your life, glad that they choose to love you unconditionally, glad that you get to see through the wrong end of the binoculars would you tell them today just how much they mean to you, maybe write it down and pin it in their room so they see it every day. Tell them and then do something to tell the world. Write to your local newspaper or radio station or something else even more creative. If we do nothing I’m afraid we’ll see fewer people with Down’s syndrome in future and that will be no good for anyone. We owe it to those still to come.