Together with Barbara, Marina and Valle, we have decided to pay tribute to World Down Syndrome Day by telling you about our personal experiences as mothers, inviting you to move over to this side, even if only to tell us a story. We will collect all the stories and comments that you share with us in our blogs or facebook pages with the links to all the posts, to create a bridge between US and YOU, hoping that together we can tear down that wall and one day be able to speak only about US. Every story must be tagged as follows: #WDSD2014 #DearFutureMom #losguardodeglialtri
The way the others glance
Before having Emma I had never met a person with Down syndrome, a world which passed me by many times without ever noticing it. Now that I am the mother of a little girl with Down syndrome I would like other people’s glances to be different, in the same way that I wish mine had been different when I was younger. Other people turn their eyes away to look somewhere else because diversity is frightening, or because they are embarrassed or because they don’t want to cause embarrassment by staring for too long. Sometimes other people can’t stop staring, sometimes their stare is fixed, full of questions or they pretend not to look and take a peek out of the corner of their eye. Sometimes it is a look full of admiration mixed with false modesty, as if to say “oh, you are so good, I don’t think I could do it”!
Other people’s glances don’t use words and I miss them, silence builds walls of loneliness and exclusion, silence rots the questions and hardens the heart. Let’s knock those walls down brick by brick, question by question, word by word!
Emma has 27 classmates, perhaps a few too many but they are a great resource. When I have the opportunity to share some moments with them, every now and then someone looks at me with eyes full of questions and I always ask: “Would you like to ask me something?” Some of them get embarrassed and run off saying “no no”, others open up their hearts. When they do that, their hearts are full of wonderful questions which I try to answer, sometimes I confess to them “I don’t even know myself”! Some of them go home and ask their parents questions and It’s right it should be that way. Everything is so easy with children…
This is where we can start knocking down that wall of silence, we have to begin with the children and fight discrimination, we can start off with the answers to those little big questions to create a new culture of diversity. All kinds of diversity. There are not only people with Down syndrome, or only disabled people, or people with different colour skin or those who choose a different way of life, who make different choices in love. Discrimination is fought with words and honest answers.
One of the others’ gazes that makes me emotional is that of pregnant women. I can imagine what is going through their minds, I carried a baby inside my tummy three times: for 27 long months. This year to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day, Coordown has decided to answer an email from a mother who is expecting a child and whose heart is full of questions. She knows she is going to have a child with Down syndrome but her questions and worries can be those that get stuck behind the gazes that we meet every day and which remain unspoken.
What kind of life will my child have? What kind of life can people with Down syndrome have?
Our children and adults with Down syndrome have answered that mother directly with this video.
To give some kind of meaning to this day I need you, the person who is reading this: I need the other person’s gaze to find the words, I need to listen to the words, to read them, to share questions, worries, doubts, to knock down that wall which separates us. Let’s tell each other what we feel when faced with diversity, about our “special” school friend, or how we answer our children’s questions when we meet “a child who is a bit strange” at the park, let’s tell what we thought when we found out we were expecting a baby, let’s tell what goes through our minds when we look away from what we don’t know, let’s tell…