Meet Jennie and her son, Mitchell.
At age 24, Jennie delivered her first child, who was unexpectedly diagnosed with down syndrome. Her journey changed the instant she realized her expectations weren't what she thought they would be. However, she is realizing this different journey with an extra chromosome has brought with it extra love, extra laughter and an incredibly extraordinary human being.
Q: What words do you find most helpful when people talk to you about Mitchell?
A: “I appreciate hearing how Mitchell is doing. Everyone has an opinion…that’s what makes the world go ‘round. Communication is huge and essential when it comes to kids! I’d rather know what Mitchell is up to than have to guess or find out months or years later if there is an issue. Once I hear it then I can decide for myself how to take it. I may not be able to control other people from making rude or harsh comments, however I can control how I react or receive it and then take it from there.An open dialogue is essential to educating both the child and others.”
“We love when people ask how they can help Mitchell. One of the greatest examples… his primary teacher came up to me and told me Mitch would be in her class and she asked what she could do to help him stay sitting and try his hardest to pay attention so he could participate. I almost cried when she did this because I had the answer! He loves magnadoodles. The ticket to Mitch having an attention span is his “draw” as he calls it. The next week she had a magnadoodle, granola bar and fruit snacks in her primary bag and there were no words for how appreciative I was as a mom who was seeking for inclusion of my son in a social, spiritual setting. Mitchell’s spirit is pure and he has so much to offer and teach when people give him the opportunity.”
Q: Are there any actions performed by others that have come across hurtful?
A: “Right after Mitchell was born we received a sympathy card in the mail. As a new mom I was expecting congratulations instead of condolences. It didn’t cross my mind that would even be a possibility until it was in my hands telling us how sorry they were about the situation. To me as a first time mom I didn't know how to take it. There were some who either out of ignorance or fear who knew of kids with Down syndrome but they would tell me they were "institutionalized.” I'm devastated when I think about that word and its meaning. Mitchell, like any other child with intellectual disabilities deserves the same treatment others receive. He is so much smarter than a lot of people realize. He senses when others are scared of him or intimidated by his openness. He gets when people get him…regardless of his own limitations. He sees people’s hearts, not their apparel, race, gender, color or creed. He loves with pure intent, and that is what makes him so perfect.”
Q: What acts of kindness have you received that you have appreciated?
A: “After Mitchell was born, family members took turns on a weekend and slept over. They stayed over night to take care of Mitchell so Steve and I could sleep. We hadn’t had a good night’s rest since Mitchell’s birth. The second he was born I became a worrier. I was so consumed with Mitchell’s physical health, well being, and sleep that I didn’t think to analyze my own well being and quality of sleep! My mind never rested and so knowing that family members were caring for Mitchell gave me the peace of mind I so desperately needed in order to just sleep.”
“Also, my neighbors told me their cleaning ladies were scheduled to come to my house at a specific day and time. Hands down one of the greatest things that happened. It was literally and figuratively cleansing. My house was clean and tidy and organized so I felt even more charged to clean, tidy and organize myself…inside and out.”
- Hiring a someone to clean their house.
- Taking the night shifts so parents can get some sleep.
- Communicating with the parents and trying to include their child.
And I couldn’t resist throwing this picture in.
In his moms own words:
“You know the silence in your house when it almost becomes deafening and you realize it’s too silent for comforts sake? It is during that silence when I walk in and see Mitchell creating art with a sharpie. Everywhere. The world around him was his canvas. There was black Sharpie on what felt like every inch of him, his bedspread, the walls, the carpet, our TV, his tongue and even our dog. All in a matter of minutes. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life because it was a choice to either laugh or cry at that moment, and it’s not a good look when I cry. That is, surprisingly, a small predicament in the life of Mitch Man.”