There are two types of advice. The advice you ask and are grateful for… And then there’s the advice people choose to give you, regardless of whether you wanted it or not!
Take last weekend, for example. I was SO grateful for advice. Oscar was very unwell, we were away in Ireland and I was thankful I could text my friend (who happens to be a GP) and ask her advice, she’s good like that. Or just yesterday, when I had a question about the pros and cons of grommets being fitted in a child with DS and I posted my question on a forum – I was grateful that I was inundated with help and knowledge from people who’d been through it. The “Oscar potentially needing grommets thing”, I’ll explain another time I promise but my point being, is that when I ask for advice and I get it, it’s a good thing.
There are many people in my life who help and advise me. There’s my friend Karen, who has three children and to me is the oracle of all child based questions. My younger/trendier sister Nicola, who advices regaurarly on my fashion dilemmas (Please refer to previous blog regarding my choice of “Christmas tree” outfit), my friend Izzy, whom I’ve been friends with forever and just generally listens to me waffle on… Much like my parents, all of them, always there to listen and advise on any matter. And then of course Chris, my husband, who likes to advise on financial matters and who also likes to alert me to the fact that I’m spending “way too much of our money”. Ok, so maybe he’d come under the “unwanted” advice category. ;0)
But you get what I mean!
I guess the blog this week isn’t just about DS at all, I’m going a little off topic here. I’ll come back to it at the end but for now, I’d like to know the answers to a few questions…
Why, when we were in Ireland this week, did a passerby think it ok to comment to my friend who had his daughter on his shoulders, saying “Poor Child… Be careful she doesn’t fall”. 1. The lady passing by didn’t have the actual balls to stop and challenge him, she carried on walking before any of us had a chance to react. Cowardly? 2. She definitely didn’t look as though she was in anyway unhappy (“poor child” reference), if anything she was loving it and 3. I would place my life on the fact that my friend Ali, wouldn’t, for love nor money, let his beloved daughter fall. He’s her daddy, for goodness sake.
Again why, when we were on holiday this summer did a random stranger feel the need to comment on Oscar and Alfie and the fact that they weren’t wearing sun hats. 1. They were in the pram so for the most part pretty shaded anyway but 2. If she actually KNEW Oz and Alf, she’d know that neither of them like hats and we’d spend the best part of the afternoon stroll picking them up off the pavement.
Finally, why, when your baby’s crying in the shopping centre, do people feel the need to say “Aaaahhhh he must be hungry?” 1. If he was hungry, I’d obviously be feeding him (I may not know it all, but I hope I wouldn’t starve my child) and 2. Babies cry for quite a few reasons, and while I haven’t got a clue why he’s crying at the moment, I really need to crack on with my shopping before he gets to defcon 1.
As you were.
I’m sure people are well meaning in their observations but I don’t understand why they volunteer their opinions without being asked. It’s one thing having conversations with friends and talking things through but it’s strangers I’m talking about here. It’s very odd.
When Oscar was going through a biting stage, a “well meaning” person advised that if ever Oscar bites, I should bite him back. While I appreciate everyone has different opinions on parenting, I am strongly opposed to biting my son. I know she’s not alone in her thoughts and that others would agree with her. I also know that things were different when I was a child. I was never bitten but if my sisters and I were naughty, we were smacked. Never hard but just enough to shock us into stopping what we were doing and reassessing whether to ever dare to do it again. I found myself explaining to said person, that Oscar doesn’t grasp things as quickly as typical kids. It takes longer for him to understand and that it’s going to require a lot of persistence on Chris’ and my part to try to make him see right and wrong. I explained he may be biting, not out of malice, more because he’s sensory seeking. He perhaps likes the way it feels. If I was to bite or smack Oscar, would he think it was ok to do it to others? I’m not sure she completely got what I was saying. It’s hard for someone who has little knowledge of DS to understand and i’m sure her suggestion came from frustrations, in watching me try to install some discipline in my child and perhaps failing. (believe me, if she thinks it’s frustrating for her, watching me continuously saying no or trying to divert his attention elsewhere so he doesn’t repeatedly “be naughty”… I can assure her, it’s equally as frustrating at times, having to set boundaries for the umpteenth time that day). But biting back isn’t something I feel comfortable with and never will.
I guess people can advise, it’s whether you choose to listen to it or not.
I’m grateful for having my friend Jules in my life. An educational psychologist who we also happened to be visiting in Ireland the other weekend. She advises me on Oscar. Only when I ask her to and always without judgement. We talk about her theories on discipline, her views on the naughty step (or the naughty spot as she prefers) on Oscar’s new nursery setting, oh and she reaffirms the fact that the biting thing is a big no no. She’s also the reason I started writing, as the initial idea behind the blog was to write a talk to present to medical professionals, like herself and to educate them about having a child with DS. She said some of the best talks she’s heard, have been given by parents. It’s the empathetic view and human aspect to things that give the professionals something to think about. The presentation is a work in progress and definitely still part of my master plan and I’m grateful to Jules for giving me the confidence to start.
I am very aware now that in writing my blog, the shoe is now metaphorically on the other foot. People seem to come to me for advice. Whether they have just had a baby born with DS, whether they have a child with similar additional needs or simply that they want to ask my opinion about something. I am flattered I am being approached but am always mindful that I would hate to push my views and opinions on someone.
A few days ago Chris, the boys and I were at a christening. The friends whose christening it was, had invited another family who have just had a baby with DS. Their baby, like Oscar, had a postnatal diagnosis of DS so hadn’t been picked up in their screening either. When they found out, our mutual friends, thinking we might be able to help, put us in touch. Up until this point we hadn’t met, just talked to on the phone and over email. We had remembered what the diagnosis meant to us in the beginning. The shock, the grief, the upset. This time WE were the advisers. We were the ones telling them what we thought. I sat and talked to the lady about her son’s hole in his heart, about potential surgery and how we’d been there.
The big thing for me this weekend was the fact that they’d meet Oscar though. Would he be on good form? Would he make them see that there was nothing to be afraid of?
I think back to us in the beginning and how I used to watch older children with DS to see how they were, how they acted. Oscar was beautifully behaved (Thank goodness). He sat nicely all the way through the service and clapped when everyone else did and jigged along to the organ as it played the hymns. He played well at the party afterwards, had a go on the bouncy castle like all the other kids, walked around the party, ate cupcakes and I’m pretty sure charmed the pants off a lot of the guests there. I couldn’t have been more proud.
My point being, that the shoe might have been on the other foot and we were the ones giving advice this time but it’s my belief that the proof in the pudding was right there before their very eyes. (Oscar being the metaphorical pudding of course). I don’t know for sure how they’d felt previously but I’m guessing like us, had outdated views about what life would be like having had a child with DS. So did he make a difference to the way they saw Down Syndrome now? I really do hope so.
Besides, who needs advice when you’ve got pudding? We all know everyone prefers a good pudding.