Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mixed Thoughts

I'm having some thoughts about Michael's take on this whole Down syndrome thing. I know he reads my blog, and I'm not sure how he's going to feel about reading about himself here. This is stuff we've been talking about, and I guess I'm just trying to sort it all out in my own head (i.e., here in blogdom . . . my head, my blog, same thing really . . . sort of).

Here's the thing: Michael doesn't tell people that Finn has Ds. Although he says this is not the case, it feels to me like he goes out of his way NOT to tell people. He's only told a couple people at work, like the two partners at his firm and one colleague - and them only because it was almost unavoidable in the beginning when Finn was in the NICU and Michael took a lot of time off work. He hasn't told any of his friends. Not the guys he jams with every single week. Not even who was at one time his closest friend, who came over with his wife on Thanksgiving, and I made him tell them as soon as they came in the front door. I couldn't stand them not knowing and maybe seeing it in Finn and just wondering. So he finally told them, but only because I insisted that he tell them.

He says that there's just not ever really been an occasion to tell people, and he doesn't think it's necessary to tell people just to tell them. Which I can see. He said, "If you were dating a black guy, you wouldn't say to your friends, 'I'm dating this guy, and by the way, he's black,' you would just say, 'I'm dating this guy,' and let them see for themselves. Or, you don't say to people, 'This is my son Joey and he's gifted,' you just say 'This is my son Joey.' " Which is true. But still. Although I don't want Finn to be defined by the fact that he has Ds, it IS a big part of who he is, you know? And there have been occasions when M might have mentioned it, when it would have been natural to mention it, like when he struck up a conversation with a guy on the train recently and discovered that he's an attorney who represents families of children with special needs. Did M mention that we have a child with special needs? Nope. Or at lunch with some coworkers recently the actual subject of Ds was being discussed. Did M throw out there that our baby has Ds? Nope.

I'm just trying to make sense of it is all. Trying to understand. I fully realize that he and I are very different in a lot of ways. I'm an open book (obviously), while he is more private. And I totally respect that. Maybe it's the difference between men and women, or moms and dads? I don't know.

While I no longer blurt out that Finn has Ds to anyone who glances in my direction, I do usually end up telling people who I have any sort of meaningful conversation with. It seems natural to me. It's part of who Finn is. And in a weird way, I guess I just need people to know. Maybe to give them a heads up not to say anything offensive in my presence (like using the R word)?? Maybe just to put all my cards on the table to see if they are accepting or not? I don't know. Maybe. I guess there's just a part of me, too, that feels like if I don't tell people up front, then they'll eventually figure it out on their own and then wonder if I never mentioned it because I'm embarassed or ashamed or something. Which is absolutely not the case. So I'm up front about it.

I asked Michael if he's embarassed or ashamed of the fact that Finn has Ds and he said no. And I believe him.

I'm just trying to understand where's he's at with this.


Tricia said...

Alex doesn't really mention it broadly either, but he DOES mention it when it's appropriate (whatever that means). Nor, for that matter do I. I used to mention it more, but now it's mostly if I am talking with...like, a friend I haven't spoken to in awhile. I'll say something like "Our daughter was born in 2006. She's a real pip and has taught me so much. She was born with DS and a heart condition...." blah blah blah...and it's mostly just to give them a head's up on MY life...because the whole thing has really shaped my life. But I don't mention it to random strangers unless the topic comes up. I probably would have mentioned it at the lunch, not necessarily on the train. Sometimes, and maybe this is sneaky, I like to see what someone's "take" is on the subject BEFORE they know. Not to ambush them, but to see what they REALLY think. Also...sometimes, I really DON'T want someone to say something they might regret so I mention it to save BOTH of us any pain.

Also. When G was born, I asked my family (dad and sisters) to please mention that G has DS when telling people she was born (like, extended family). I dreaded the thought that G would finally see some random cousin or something that we only see once every year or whatever and them having no idea and just wondering and feeling weird. Because then it'd be like this big elephant in the room that no one was mentioning.

Oh. And while I sometimes NOW wonder if this was the best thing to do, I sent out something uplifting ABOUT DS with Georgia's birth announcements. Although...it's not like I think it was BAD...I just wonder if I would do it today knowing what I know now.

Ramble ramble...

Nicole O'Dell said...

I think men just hold a lot of things a little closer to the chest and don't feel the need to share as much as women...not that either way is more right. It just is.

Maybe he doesn't feel the need to tell everyone because it bothers him so little that he doesn't mind people making the observation for themselves. Maybe he thinks that by talking about it a lot, it gives it too much spotlight and importance, whereas he'd rather just be "proud daddy".

I don't know; just speculating.

You guys are awesome, either way!

Merry Christmas!

Ann said...

It's still kind of a new and evolving experience for us (twins Maggie and Caleb,DS, born 4/16/08). Initially I felt like blurting it out to everyone. Now I only talk about it when it's a natural part of the conversation. My guess is it may change for him as well. Still relatively early.

Lovin Mama said...

My husband and I have always handled Goldie's diagnosis differently. I think its because we have had different life experiences and interact with different people. He started out telling people that Goldie had DS, but found that a lot of them didn't know what it was. Then he had to try and explain it when he really didn't know what it would mean for HER. People also asked him "how bad it was". Then, he felt like he had to rate her degree of down syndrome. I can't stand that. So I think he just stopped telling people. My friends all knew what DS was so they focused on celebrating with me.

I have to give my husband credit though, he has always been more relaxed and accepting of the DS. After we got the final diagnosis I was crying in the van and he told me "This doesn't change anything. She'll still learn to walk and ride a bike. She's going to grow and be a kid and do everything other kids do." I was like "oh, yeah."

JaybirdNWA said...

I don't mention it to people except if asked. It's not that I'm embarrassed by him, I just don't want him to be labeled a child with special needs. I have learned from my dealings with special needs children that they will be treated in the way we as parents treat them. If we make a big deal out of their need, whatever that may be, they will be seen that that is a big deal and they will be treated differently.

Darla said...

Maybe, just like a child with down syndrome is not a "downs child", Michael is still a father first and a father of a child with down syndrome second. Maybe letting people figure it out on their own feels more normal to Michael. Your identities haven't changed, just like Finn will always be much more than a child with down syndrome, he will also be a human being with an array of talents and abilities. Except for advocating, maybe Michael is actually in a good place with this.

Darla said...

Maybe, just like a child with down syndrome is not a "downs child", Michael is still a father first and a father of a child with down syndrome second. Maybe letting people figure it out on their own feels more normal to Michael. Your identities haven't changed, just like Finn will always be much more than a child with down syndrome, he will also be a human being with an array of talents and abilities. Except for advocating, maybe Michael is actually in a good place with this.

Cindy said...

Honestly - I think it is men. The whole mind frame is completely different and often mind boggling to me. I can totally see my husband acting the very exact same way as Michael.

I don't think it is a shameful or embarrassing thing to them, it is just that they really internalize and deal with things completely different than we do. Not that how they handle it is right or wrong or the way we handle things is right or wrong - it is just different. Frustrating yes - just different.

Chrystal said...

Wow, I can see both of your points and I'll add on to the others and say that I don't see M's view as wrong - just different. I don't get the impression that you think it's "wrong" either. Hence the post title, huh?

My feelings and actions more closely match yours (besides the telling everyone in the beginning. it took me much longer). I think my husband's feelings and actions more closely match M's. D is still a fantastic parent (better than I am, probably).

All that to say, I understand.

Carla said...

You know as well as I do that men just process things so differently. I was shocked to learn that my Michael hadn't told his best local friend about my PPD, despite his friend's wife having suffered from it after their 2nd child. I don't know what to say, Lisa, except "to each their own", I guess. I look forward to reading more about this topic as time goes by and I hope you can find some peace with it.

Tara Marie said...

I think it is a man thing.....my husband loves our daughter dearly and is the same way.

Alycia said...

Sorry I am just commenting on this now... I was out of town for a few days and I dont have a computer at home. I know I know... I am working on getting a lap-top : ) Anyways, I dont know how I became interested/ fascinated with the differences between men and women emotionally but I am. I think it started out with studying adolescents in great depth. That’s kinda where you begin to see such vast differences. Although, I think it was maybe even before this… Perhaps it has something to do with my parents being divorced and my dad being such an extra-extroadinary man. I don’t know… Anyways, it has often caused MANY arguments between my friends and me (sister especially). They always tell me “I side with guys.” I don’t necessary think this is true I just always try to side with the more rational person and many times I find that men are more rational. I also try to understand why they do things and although I don’t always approve of their actions I do understand and can see why they do them.

I totally see Michael’s point of view and yours. To me his analogy of dating a black person makes perfect sense to me. In fact I was taken back and thought it was insightful and almost beautiful in that he doesn’t see Finn in the same light many other people probably do. I think as a women/mother (I can’t know from personal experience so could be wrong) they are much much more protective and like you said you feel a stronger fiercer protection for Finn. You perhaps overcompensate for Finn and his DS and share that he has DS with more people as to protect him. Neither approach is wrong nor one better than the other and I find myself wondering what I would do. Probably the same as you because I am female : ) But, I don’t see anything wrong with Michael not sharing it. You see DS coming up in conversation as a chance to share Finn has DS and Michael doesn’t. I don’t necessarily think it is a chance to share or chime in as well but maybe Michael thought it was a chance to really listen to honest thoughts/opinions. If Michael would have shared with the group they most likely would have tip-toed around the subject. Michael probably wanted to know what they really thought and most the time women protect themselves from the honesty that might hurt them. Michael has always seemed very rational to me. Perhaps more rational then most men/ human beings but as you have shared more about Michael through this blog I feel like I know him differently now. I still see him as just as rational but perhaps more emotional. His not sharing Finn having DS to me almost makes me feel/see a stronger emotional protection for Finn but a very different approach than the one you take. It’s odd to put into words but I think Michael does it both to protect Finn and also because he truly sees/ feels that nobody should treat one human being any different than another regardless of race, disability, etc. He probably also feels that he is protecting Finn by giving him a chance to be treated totally and completely equal by not sharing that he has DS. I don’t know if what I am feeling/ thinking is coming out right into my words but hopefully you get what I am trying to say. I don’t think you should question/ feel hurt by Michael not sharing it because like you said you believe and know Michael isn’t embarrassed by Finn having DS. You know he isn’t and that is really probably the root of why his not sharing it was bothering you.

Hope Christmas was wonderful and New Years as well! I am around this weekend if you guys want to go out! : )

Side-note: I think I told you and Michael a long time ago if I ever went into law it would be as a divorce lawyer for men or a child advocate : )