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Caroline White Headshot

Perspective

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This morning at school drop off something happened that made my heart swell and almost burst out of my chest with pride. It was a really small thing, something that most people would have barely noticed, but for me it was a BIG deal.

I love the drop off at school and now that I am on maternity leave and not rushing off to work I have a little more time to soak up and savour the moments. I can practically see Seb's metaphoric tail wagging as he sees his friends, so desperate to be 'in' with them. He really looks up to two of the taller boys and I often worry that he is a bit of a nuisance, constantly calling out their names and running after them. They don't seem to bat an eyelid and on Monday I saw one of them place his arm on Seb's shoulder in a very manly manner and just 'hang out' with him, having no idea how much it meant to me, the onlooker.

At 20 weeks pregnant with Seb I knew we were having a boy. I imagined our lives together, becoming parents for the first time and all sorts of milestones. I particularly remember a vision of my son as a teenager - a strapping sporty boy hanging out in our kitchen with his school friends (all super handsome and cool of course). I allowed myself to wonder whether he would be an academic or a successful sportsman or a musician. I even imagined what it would feel like seeing him open his exam results. Even more ridiculous, whilst still in utero, I researched local schools and league tables.

So when Seb was born and we were told he had Down's syndrome and the associated learning difficulties it was like a punch in the face - actually it wasn't like that, it was like being run over by a train. All of the hopes and dreams I had visualised in tatters. I was left feeling a total fool. My heart broken. I could no longer visualise any future and I remember Seb's wise godfather saying to me "does it really matter what qualifications he gets? Surely what matters is that he is happy, leads a full and rewarding life, is polite, and above all a nice person". Even though the words were perfect, it still smarted. I knew he was right, but I just couldn't feel it. I felt cheated and I didn't want 'it'.

At the drop off this morning we saw one of Seb's Teaching Assistants on playground duty. Seb, as usual, was buzzing around the playground high fiving his buddies like a little whirlwind of energy, chasing scooters and beaming from ear to ear. A new little boy was looking a bit bewildered and lost in all the mayhem. Seb's Teaching Assistant called Seb over and asked him if he would like to show the new little boy 'sign duty'. Sign duty is when two children are chosen to walk around the playground with a notice that indicates to the Infants that it is time to stop playing and quietly make their way to their classrooms.

Seb's face lit up, 'yes please!' he exclaimed and off he marched, out of sight. He was gone a while and I asked his teaching Assistant if she thought he was ok. She explained that he had to walk all the way through the school to the staff room to knock for the sign. So we waited. Me of little faith imagined him galloping through the hall, chasing up and down the stairs, in and out of open doors, in fact, anything but walk to the staff room. Never in a million years did I expect him to come marching back holding the sign to find his new acquaintance.

Off they trotted side by side round the playground, Seb proudly shouting 'SIGN! SIGN!' (which I am told is over and above the required duties!). Slowly he rounded up all the little children, just like sheep, and off they went into their classrooms. Seb, still grinning from ear to ear, kissed me goodbye and took the sign back to the staff room. I was so proud of him I nearly exploded into a million pieces.

It seems a long time ago since Seb was born. In real terms only five and a half years ago but it feels like a lifetime. I was a different person then. One I don't recognise or even like much these days. I wholeheartedly agree with everything Seb's godfather said to me back in those early days and I am so lucky to have been taught the important things in life by my son without him even realising. It has set a new perspective for all of my children, I am much less focused on what I hope they will achieve and I know I will support whichever direction they decide upon in life, academic or otherwise.

Each child is an equal, with their own set of strengths and weaknesses and the best job any parent can do is nurture them as individuals and make sure they are fulfilled, happy, respectful and kind.

Around the Web

New Parents - Downs Syndrome Association

Issues for families with children with Down syndrome

Down's syndrome - NHS Choices

Britain's youngest mother of a Down's Syndrome child proves her ...

What Is Down Syndrome? - National Down Syndrome Society

Is this the beginning of the end for Down syndrome? | News.com.au

Down Syndrome New Mama

Down Syndrome Resources Online - Wheelchair