HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — When Kate Callihan first learned her son Pace had Down syndrome, she admitted to having a doom and gloom perception of his limitations and challenges. She started a blog to help herself process her emotions.
“In reality that’s just not the case at all,” the Henrico mother said. “Now I blog about how wonderful life can be, no matter the curve balls you’re thrown. I hope someday a new mother in my shoes will stumble across it. Perhaps it’ll help her to feel a bit more hopeful!”
Callihan recently wrote an open letter to her now two-year-old’s first babysitter Nancy.
“People in the special needs community often say that we would not change our children for the world, but we would absolutely change the world for them. I was compelled to write this letter to Nancy because I think more people need to know that with a heart and mind geared towards acceptance and inclusion of everybody, the world is a lot less scary,” Kate said. “If more people saw the unknown, ‘the different’, as an opportunity… well the world would be so much sweeter for all of us. Nancy saw right past my son’s diagnosis from the get go. It’s such a simple thing but it’s huge to a parent. It’s everything. It’s all we ask of our community is to see passed the diagnosis or the disability and see our kids!”
An Open Letter to Nancy
What is there to say to the woman who looked after your baby when you had to work?
Who loved him and protected him and taught him things for almost two years?
Surely Thank You is a good start but from me to you, it goes further than that.
Andrew and I found you while Pace was still beating up my insides, before we knew he’d be anything other than your typical bouncing baby boy.
I’m teary eyed writing this now but it’s nothing compared to the tears I shed writing you an email a week after Pace was born, when we received confirmation that he had Down syndrome.
In so many words I told you about his diagnosis and gave you an out if you wanted it. Scared and sad, I didn’t know any better. I think it took less than an hour for you to write me back to say you couldn’t wait for him to join your daycare family. That he’d fit right in with your little bunch.
It was right then and there that I learned my first and most valuable lesson as a mom of a special needs child.
That I must never think for a second that my son’s disability should be a deal breaker in anybody’s eyes.
Not his teachers.
Not his classmates.
Not anyone who has the pleasure to know him.
It wasn’t a light bulb moment at the time. I was mostly just relieved.
It wasn’t until we started looking for his next step – a preschool.
Calling several places and talking with directors about his abilities and his needs, always with the confidence that any place would be lucky to have him.
I do believe it was you who planted that seed almost two years ago, before I’d even had time to understand what it meant.
Before I’d come to realize not every person we’ll encounter will practice the kind of acceptance you so effortlessly showed us.
The special needs community preaches it daily – our children are more alike than they are different.
That their families and friends and communities should presume their competence if they are to achieve their full potential. Mostly that they are so very worthy of inclusion.
All things we were able to take for granted during our time with you. So, while of course I thank you for keeping him safe, for loving on him and for helping him grow into the sweet, smart, and sassy two year he’s about to be, I cannot thank you enough for teaching ME in my own journey.
For helping me to be a better mother and advocate for Pace. For getting us all started out on the right foot.
Pace is going to miss your morning cuddles something fierce. Thank you for all of it. This is definitely not goodbye. But see you again soon!