Saturday, April 18, 2009

Stereotypes and Misconceptions . . . errggh.

I talked to my grandma on the phone yesterday and she was asking how Finn is doing. I told her about his surgery last week and that he's doing really well, and that developmentally he's doing well. She said, "Well, I guess he must have a mild case of Down syndrome." You know, like it's a sickness or something . . . like, maybe he has just a touch of the flu or something.

Later in the conversation I told her how we just love him to pieces, and she said, "Oh yes, those babies are so loveable! They're known for that."

It was on the tip of my tongue to launch into the whole explanation of how there's no such thing as a "mild case of Down syndrome." I wanted to tell her, too, that we love him to pieces because he's our son, not because he's extra loveable because he has Down syndrome. But you know what? I just didn't have the energy. She's 87 and very set in her ideas and notions, and I just felt too tired to try to enlighten her.

I think the stereotype of children with Ds being so loving is one that bothers me more than some of the other stereotypes. That and the "they're so happy" one. When I hear that, it always feels like the message really is "They're too dumb to be anything but happy and loving. Happily stupid. And isn't that great?" Something like that. I know people don't mean that, and I know my grandma means well, I really do know that. And maybe it's just impossible to understand why the stereotypes are so irritating unless you're standing on this side of things, and not as an outsider looking in.


rebecca said...

My grandmother, then 84 (now almost 89), said "your not going to bring her home are you?" after she found out I had a child with Ds. Those comments have never really ended, and honestly, even my own mother says things sometimes that make me want to reach out and slap her.

"Oh...oh...OMG...she is using the remote" my mother screams gleefully from the living room. "Uh yes, she's been doing that for two years now I reply" always followed by her "well I thought....". I shut the conversation short.

Stereotypes exist everywhere, but of them all I truly think that the ones that provide a preconceived notion that a child with Ds is as you say "They're too dumb to be anything but happy and loving. Happily stupid. And isn't that great". Ugh that one gets me every-single-time.

Ruby's Mom said...

I hate hearing, "They are always so sweet!" I just hate it!! No "they" are people just like everyone else and we are not always happy and sweet!

Beth said...

You'll get some comments like that from time to time, and you're right, I think. People do mean well, but it's still irritating.

Shortly after we received Jude's diagnosis, my sweet and well-meaning mother-in-law told me that she was praying that Jude would be cured of the Down syndrome. Cured!
First of all, like it's a disease.
Second, like people just wake up one morning and no longer have extra chromosomes in each and every cell of their bodies? Not likely.
And third, why? Because he's unacceptable to you as is? It was just a weird, weird thing to say.

Jeanette said...

There are days that I get fired up inside when I hear those comments and other days I shrug it off. It is something that people on the other side of DS just don't get. Sigh.

Mommy to those Special Ks said...

Ohhh yeah, my grandma is the SAME way! "A light case of Downs" lol and when she sees another person with Ds she has to call me and tells me she met so and so and he/she was "down syndromed". I just roll my eyes and go on now. I tried correcting for the first 2 years and it didn't work. LOL

heather said...

I think those comments bothered me the most the first year because it seemed like I heard them from EVERYONE--maybe I hear them as much now but have become accustomed to them. I have to admit that when Morgan was one day old and we found out she had the worst kind of heart defect possible that I asked the cardiologists if this meant she would have a more severe case of Down syndrome. They let me know that you can't have a mild case or severe have it or you don't. But that some kids are more high functioning than others and health conditions do not predict functioning abilities. So I realize I need to be a little forgiving with is out of ignorance.

Also I wanted to comment on Beth's comment. My friend's nephew was born with Down syndrome in the fall and they were also praying for a cure and not telling anyone about it because they knew he would be cured. I explained to my friend that that is the same as having a baby boy and spending his entire life praying that he can be cured into a girl. Not happening. And why not celebrate the gift you have been given? (Unfortunately that family is still in denial...they found out that he had mosaic Ds when he was about a month old and think that is part of the miracle but it isn't complete yet.)

Angela said...

Yeah, I agree. Ugh on the "mild case" thing.

And as much as I hated hearing how happy kids with DS are, I have to admit...I have never met a happier, more content, pleasant baby. And of that I am very glad. He lightens up my day and lets me know that everything will be okay. So maybe even if they do seem to be a bit happier than babies who don't have DS, it's okay with me b/c maybe I need that. LOL

Jaida said...

The "happy people" stereotype really bothers me too. Mainly because I think people assume, therefore, that people with DS aren't capable of understanding or experiencing negative emotions. Although my two-year-old is a very good-natured and, yes, happy child, he does feel (and express) hurt, and sadness, and anger and fear. I also like to think that his general good demeanor and happy nature have a lot to do with the fact that my husband and I provide a safe, secure and nurturing environment that he feels good and loved in!