Smarty Pants

Today, when I pick Evelyn up from her summer program, I have the pleasure of reading the following note from her teacher:

“Evelyn had a good day…She counted her friends and teachers.  She said there were 10 people – which was correct.  We read the book ‘Old MacDonald Had A Farm’ and she told us the sounds of all the animals.”

When we recieved Evelyn’s diagnosis, one of my greatest concerns was that she wouldn’t be like our family.  She wouldn’t look like us.  She wouldn’t fit in with us.  She wouldn’t be like us.  I was especially concerned that she wouldn’t be smart.  I come from an intelligent family.  My identity was firmly rooted in my intellect.  I found a learned mind to be the most admirable quality one could possess.   I was constantly praising Brady for his intelligence.  I often worried how I would relate to this child who can’t learn?  How would I praise her?  I wouldn’t be able to say, “You are so smart! I’m proud of you!”

Therefore, I had to take a hard look at myself.  I’d always looked down on other’s who placed the highest value in beauty or athleticism, but was my point of view any less small minded?  I spent a lot of time before Evelyn was born rewriting my definition of human value.  I was surprised to find so many other admirable attributes.  I began noticing and appreciating patience, humor, kindness, and thoughtfulness in others as much, and sometimes even more, than intellegence.  I learned a valuable lesson:  There is no singular trait or attribute that is more valuable than the others.  We all have our strengths and our weaknesses, and the value is in what we do with them.  I am thankful for this change in perspective.  It adds dimension to my relationships and my life.  I’m glad I was pushed to take this journey by her diagnosis.  I hope anyone who is living in a small world, like I was, is given the opportunity to expand their horizons.

Yes, my concern for Evelyn’s lack of intelligence changed me and I am grateful I took that journey, but I was wrong – Evelyn is smart.  People with Down syndrome are smart.  People with Down syndrome can learn.  Sometimes in a different way, or at a different pace, but that can be said of many people.  While I want to encourage others to find value in more than intelligence,  I also want to assure you there is no need to count out intellect when it comes to someone with Down syndrome.  Evelyn can sign at least fifty signs.  She can read the alphabet, count to ten, and identify her colors and shapes.  She sight reads dozens of words.  That’s pretty good for even a typical three year old.  Granted, it didn’t come as easily as with her brother, and her sister is rapidly gaining on her.  That is why I am especially proud of how determined she is.  She never quits.  She just keeps trying.  When I feel frustrated or overwhelmed, I think of Evelyn, and I carry on.  She is inspiring.

So today, I read the note from her teacher and I say without hesitation, “You are so smart!  I’m so proud of you!” and I mean it.

9 thoughts on “Smarty Pants”

  1. This is so awesome. I identify with so much of what you said about fears over intelligence as we came to terms with Lina’s diagnosis, and about the shift in perspective. Our Lina was an embryo adoption, and when we were going through the process of choosing embryo donors, intelligence was one of the big things we were trying to evaluate (which is tricky from a few pages of profile info!). It mattered a lot to us. I thought about that a lot after she was born. But I am already convinced that at 9 months, Lina is very bright. She shows so much curiosity, and what you’ve posted here bolsters my confidence that she IS intelligent and will learn and grow just like other kids, if in her own way and at her own pace.

  2. Such a great point! It was one of those worries I was too ashamed to voice at first, since both my husband and I are thinkers/writers/people who value intellect. I think one of the things I grieved most for Becca was that she wouldn’t be able to go to University or wrestle with great ideas… Almost 9 years later and she constantly WOWS us with her bright mind and her off-the-wall humor, proving her mind fits in with our family, just as much as the rest of her. It’s true that she has to work so much harder and longer than her siblings, but that makes it all the more amazing and exciting when she gets it.

    1. That extra genetic material still comes from parents. I think I thought Evelyn would ONLY be Down syndrome, but now I see how she is like me in some ways and she is like her dad in some ways, too. She just has a little extra of one of us mixed in there. (I hope its me!)

  3. Very inspiring blog you have here. I love that you said that you had to take a hard look at yourself. It’s something so many of us don’t (or won’t) do. Your family is very lucky to have you.

    My children are full of lessons for me and I know that I’m constantly learning about myself because of them. They always remind me of the big picture in even the smallest of things. And I wouldn’t be able to grow as a human without their help. Your blog post is spot on about that internal struggle for growth and perspective!

    1. Knowing that I am setting an example for my children has really pushed me. It’s hard sometimes to accept my shortcomings, but there will always be room for improvement in anyone. I want them to see that there is no shame in being imperfect, as long as a person continues to grow and try to be better.

  4. I love those videos!! Our daughter is 13, but I really miss those pigtails.

    I wanted to say thank you for pointing out the good in Down Syndrome…this story needs to be told more!!

    Little Birds Dad

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