Friday, June 1, 2012

I will not hide...

I, like so many, am in love with the website Pinterest. It's become one of my favorite tools for finding recipes, craft ideas and design inspiration. I love to see what others share and to share what I love. Recently, I shared a photo of my miracle men on Pinterest- after all, what do I love more than my sweet boys? I never realized how many people would be uncomfortable with this particular pin.

This is the photo I posted:
And this is the caption I shared when I pinned it: This is Connor and Casey. They are my miracle men. Identical twins with Down syndrome. Why are so many people afraid to have beautiful children like these?? 90% of babies diagnosed prenatally with DS are aborted. Look at these faces and tell me that they don't deserve to be alive. Down syndrome is not as scary as you may think. My life is wonderful. Perfect. BLESSED.

When I originally chose to share my miracle men on my Pinterest page it was with the sincere hope that maybe I could open 1 person's heart and eyes to the wonder and beauty that I live with daily. What I never expected were some of the reactions I got. 

Here are a few and the responses I gave:

Kiowa Pendleton
Some people think having a child that can hardly take care of themselves is scary. I personally would not make a child go through that. I would hate to have down syndrome, or any defect and if my mom had aborted me because of that, I would have no idea anyways. Stop judging.

Meghan Wilkinson
Kiowa Pendleton- My sons are not incapable of caring for themselves. They are thriving and doing quite well. Adults with Down syndrome work, live independently, marry, drive and vote. And they are not as close minded as you. You are the one I would not want as a child. I would rather have my sons who love unconditionally than someone who could be so judgmental. Good luck in life. May you blessed enough to meet someone as amazing as my sons!

Leigh Manacher
Pinterest is not the place to discuss the joys of having down syndrome children or any children at all. Pinterest is not the place to discuss your relationship with God or even your own family! Pinterest was designed so that the creative community of artists, cooks, fashionistas and designers could share their sense of style and taste through inspiring photographs. This conversation belongs on a parenting website, not on this one.

Melissa Kaminska
Totally agree, Leigh. This is not the forum for this.

Meghan Wilkinson
Leigh, thank you for sharing your opinion. We are all welcome and entitled to one. However, Pinterest is about sharing what you love and what could I possibly share that I love more than the very children who showed me what true love and joy is all about? I am sorry if somehow those two beautiful faces upset or offended you but the really cool thing about life is- it's full of choices! You may choose NOT to look at this, share this, like this and I can choose to share it anyway. And as far as speaking about God, I personally think if more people did talk about God maybe the world would not be the cesspool it is anymore. Again, thank you for sharing your opinion. You inspired a blog post! I'm always on the lookout for new ideas to write about. I truly hope you have a nice day.

One thing I am learning is that not all people are ready for the new generation of parent who is raising a child with DS. We are the ones that refuse to hide our children behind closed doors, put them in institutions or have them sequestered solely in special ed classrooms. We are the generation of parents that share the joy our kids bring with the world, we fight for inclusion and understanding and we demand respect for the precious gifts that we have been given. 

I am proud to be part of the movement that is raising awareness, opening doors and knocking down stereotypes and misinformation. One way in which I do this is by sharing Casey and Connor as with as many people as I can and in as many ways as I can. I am not ashamed of my kids- I could not be prouder if I tried. And I am not alone! There are parents, aunts and uncles, siblings, friends and educators standing up all over the world to say Down syndrome is not to be feared but embraced. Even companies are beginning to understand what we are saying, that our children are beautiful are worthwhile and should be shared, not hidden. Target has been using several models with Down syndrome in their Sunday circulars. Other companies that are catching on are Toy's R Us, Macy's, and JC Penney. Popular shows are featuring children and adults with DS. More and more colleges and universities are beginning programs that accept and accommodate young adults with DS and other disabilities and help to propel them into the future and self sufficiency.

It's a great time to have DS. There are more doors open than ever there have been. What a beautiful thing. 

I'm not saying that I am changing the world. I am only one person who is creating small waves of change in the world. But those small waves combine with other small waves and eventually there will be a tsunami of hope and awareness and when a person chooses to share a photo of their child on Pinterest or Facebook or twitter, there will be comments of support and loving and not ones saying "This is not the place for this kind of sharing."

The same people who get upset or offended by what I share will happily repin and like the e-cards photos that use the "R" word, show Ryan Reynolds sans shirt and freely share the "LOL cats" with terrible grammar. How is my sharing of the biggest inspiration in my life not worthy of the same tolerance?

Now, it should be noted that there are over 70 comments on that one pin of C&C and the overwhelming majority of them are positive and loving and wonderful. A lot of them go on the attack of the few negative or less supportive comments. To those people who look at my little guys and see the miracle that is them, I say THANK YOU! It is those individuals that bolster me when I run across the ignorant and closed minded. They are the people who remind me that there are many out there who love as I love and  believe as I believe that every child is worthwhile. That is a great feeling. 

To the people who don't get it yet- one day you will either get on board this train or be run over by it. My kids aren't going anywhere. *I* am not going anywhere. I will share my life, my sons' lives and the lives of all people with DS ANYWHERE I choose and I will share my love of God, my faith and my belief in the connection between all these things anywhere I choose. You can ignore it but like I said- we aren't going away. 

Before I close this post, here is another photo of my miracle men- they are living works of art- they are the very shape of love and hope. What is more beautiful than that?