What makes you different makes you beautiful

My son Elijah is now 18 months old; he is inquisitive, intelligent, mischievous and determined. He also happens to have Down Syndrome.

So what makes him different to a ‘typical’ child? Well he carries certain characteristics associated with Down Syndrome.  He has the most beautiful eyes; most say they are almond shaped. I like to say they are moon shaped, because when he was born they were dark, dark blue like a moonlit ocean. They are slightly lighter now, almost grey/ blue but still stunning and full of wonder.

He has the sandal toe, which makes his gorgeous little feet even cuter. The big toe stands separate from the rest, means he should be able to wear flip- flops with ease! Lucky squidge, flip – flops always rub my feet.

In some areas he has been slower to develop, he’s not walking yet but can stand for a few moments if holding on to something stable. He won’t just let go, he turns to me and flings his little arms round my neck so that I can lower him safely down. At that point a melt, and I don’t mean just a little.

There has been no real communication yet although I think he is trying to say cat and duck and finally Mummy. I’m slowly learning Makaton, we both understand a few signs. Make the sign for milk and don’t magic a bottle in front of him – well be that on your own head. He has his own little signs that he uses, movements, a nod of the head or gesturing arm.

He excels at swimming, his teacher says he is advanced. He has his level 4 baby badge and is second youngest in his class. He can swim underwater, eyes open! I can’t do that! In fact I’m a pretty rubbish swimmer full stop so at some point in the not too distant future, he will be better than me.

He works things out, give him a toy and show him how to use it once, he’ll know how to use it the next day. He will even work out other bits that he hasn’t been shown.

He is incredibly alert, always watching what is going on. Especially in unfamiliar surroundings, he takes it all in and will happily go off and explore all the time keeping an eye on me so he knows where I am.

He’s trying to feed himself, he can feed himself certain foods especially biscuits. Watching him manoeuvre the last teeny bit of biscuit from his tiny fist to his mouth is just beautiful. The concentration on his face and the joy when he finally gets his prize is just amazing. Spoons are a struggle but he’ll get there. It just takes a bit longer to give him his dinner but I can live with that.

So yes there may be some delays, I could go on with the list of can’t do’s but why on earth would I focus on that? I’ll never put the focus on what he can’t do, that’s putting him at a total disadvantage. I focus on the ‘cans’, I focus on the absolute joy he brings to my life. Isn’t that what a mother does?So you see I have a child with Down Syndrome but I’m not downtrodden, hard done by and there is no need for pity.  He isn’t some sort of punishment for something I did in a past life. What he is is a lesson: a very beautiful, joyous and valuable lesson. Pre Elijah I was judgemental, I had no understanding of people with disabilities, I used the ‘R’ word regularly. I would never have dreamt in a million years that I would be able to cope with a child with special needs, least of all as a single mother. But now? I don’t cope, that makes it sound like it’s not enjoyable. I love my boy: I wouldn’t change him for the world. People are drawn to him like no other baby I know, his smile is radiant and his giggle is infectious.  Yes of course there’s an element of bias here but those who know him, friends, family and various group teachers will tell you he is a total charmer. He is loved beyond words. I honestly believe that if something happened to me a small scuffle would break out over custody. So you see, this little journey of ours isn’t easy, but my God it is worth it.

My son, my Elijah, my world.

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