It seems that when you raise a child like Preston with Down Syndrome everything (a little too strong of a comment) gets amplified whether good or bad. You know how it is when you spoil a child or just do not stick to your guns when you punish them and then later you regret it because you have become an in-abler. Another aspect is when there is a person with special needs you and almost all people do not expect the same behavior as they would from a normal child. Don't be fooled. Boy I would like to know what a normal child is! They are all different and NORMAL is just some term an idiot thought up that did not have children. Anyway, back to the story. Let me give you a few examples, some funny and some not so funny, depending on how you view things and who is watching.
Let's say your NORMAL child is at McDonald's and sees a very large girl at the counter who happens to be black and he or she says, "BIG, BLACK GIRL!!!". Now that normal child just stepped across the lines of common sense and you feel like killing the child before they are old enough to get in real trouble. The person behind the counter glares at you and there is an elephant in the room that just will not go away. You probably slapped the kid prior to 1970 but now you just yell at them after you step outside and if you are a decent parent you told them to apologize immediately and they knew there was not and end to the discussion. If you did not have that feeling of anger and embarrassment then you are probably a person who should not have children in the first place. OH ya, Preston said those words to the girl and she just smiled while I said, "sorry" and then got my order and sat down ASAP. The girl and Preston became friends and he hugged her and she loved him. You tell me how to punish a child that says something like that which was all facts and then the receiving person just loves them back. I tell you all I knew to do was SUCK IT UP and go on with a little bit more humility in my soul.
Or how about when you are in the airport and he stops folks you have never seen in your life and he says, "have you met my parents? Here is Shouna and Gary". I cannot tell you how many times this occurred and each time I gain a little more humility. But the reward for his behavior is never ending either. Like the time AJ had Preston, Chase and I up to his suite at OSU for a football game and AJ said, "Preston can come back and be a host for me anytime". That was a reward for me as a parent and really made me proud of his ability to meet and greet everybody including those in the hallways. For Preston, if there were 50,000 folks at the game it was an opportunity for him to meet all 50,000. He loves people.
At church everyone seems to know who he is long before they know who we are. He always wares a hat and typically a black felt hat. Now thanks to Rocky Arrington (yes, from Shidler) Preston has about 4 or 6 new hats of different colors and material. When we do meet people and they ask if we have children they already know him and did not know his parents. We do have two other children but Preston is famous. In fact I have said many times that if I ever run for office I am going to change my name to Preston's Dad.
Now just so you won't think all is so good let me tell you the Holy Shit story. We were at a funeral of a close friend who was always late to everything and at the funeral she/the body arrived late in honor of her reputation. As you can imagine people told stories how she was always late. She worked closely with special Olympics and Preston's swim team. During the funeral many folks told funny stories about her but like all funny stories at funerals people laugh then get real quiet. It was during that quiet time with about 800 folks in attendance Preston yells out "Holy Shit". We tried to strangle him (not really) but we did cover his mouth immediately and speak sternly into his ear only to wait a few more minutes before another pause in laughter and he yelled, "Holy Shit" again.
So what does all this teach a person or should we say, "what do you learn in the Osage?".
- humility can be taught at any age and to parents
- Love overcomes most everything, even at McDonald's
- Blessings come from a child with an extra chromosome
- Thanks for listening,