Dealing with Others
Here are some common situations we face, and possible causes and/or reactions:
- Often People will tell you that you're a 'tzadekes': Each of us knows that we ourselves are not 'tzaddikim'. Your friend also knows that she isn't a 'tzadekess'. If she can convince herself that you were blessed with a Down syndrome child because you're such a righteous person, then she can sleep easy (i.e., it won't happen to her because she knows she's not on that level). When I point this psychology out to my would-be labelers, they admit to the truth of these thought processes.
- People may stare at you (on the bus, on the street) when you walk with your Down syndrome child/ sibling: Once, shortly after our Down syndrome child was born my daughter came home from a bus ride very excitedly. "You'll never guess what I saw on the bus today!! I saw a girl with Down syndrome get on the bus with her brother. She acted so normally, and her brother didn't seem embarrassed at all. 'B'Ezras Hashem' I'll also be proud of my sister!!" Remember that the person who is looking/staring at you may be a grandmother/sibling/uncle, etc. of a new Down syndrome baby. They don't necessarily think poorly of you. On the contrary, you might actually be giving them hope!
- People might say the "wrong thing": Sometimes a person says something that at a different time you would gain something form it. Sometimes we enjoy sharing our ups and downs with people; however, sometimes we wish everyone would forget we have a special child, and just treat us normally, like everybody else. If you're in a vulnerable mood, anything someone says may strike you wrong.
- People often try to comfort us by saying "it could be worse": We can often tell ourselves that we should count our blessings, but people err in thinking that knowing our blessings wipes out all pain. (Even as we see the blessings our Down syndrome children give us, and are to us, there always remains a certain amount of pain.) When people tell me "it could be worse" I gently ask them the following: "If someone will drop a brick on your toes, will it hurt?" (Yes, obviously) Then I continue: "If someone tells your that you're lucky that your leg doesn't need amputation, will that remove the pain in your toes? No, it won't. I know it could be worse, but I feel pain anyway."
- Sometimes people complain to us about things that to us seem insignificant: (I'm referring to temporary discomforts, like postponed 'bris', a pre-Pesach birth, a baby that wakes up it parents during the night, etc.) This is the ideal situation to be 'Dan L'Kaf Z'Chus' because to them, their situation is painful. You can sympathize and even suggest solutions (if they want your advice). If they are really 'bugging' you (constantly repeating their complaints or telling you that you're "lucky"), you can gently say, "I'm sorry, but it's hard for me to relate to a problem that won't make any difference six months from now. I realize it causes you pain, but maybe you should talk to someone else about this
This article first appeared in issue #4 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us
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Click here to see the other articles in issue #4 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us