My grandson Maxford is 10 years old. He was born with Down syndrome.
Although that fact usually draws an “oohhhh” from people when I share that information, it isn’t all that bad to have a person in the family who continues to “wow” all of us with simple life lessons. A recent trip to Disneyland with his mom, dad and two siblings brought forth a new twist into the developmental delays of children who are born with Down syndrome.
Maxford does everything all 10-year-old kids do. We have come to grips with the fact that there are some things he will never do, but on the flip side, he will also never rob a bank or shoot a gun, so there is that to consider.
One of the things Maxford really wanted to do at Disneyland was participate in the Jedi Training Academy. He told has parents over and over how much he wanted to be one of the kids, age 4-12, who were picked to be in the show where they went on stage, learned how to use a training lightsaber and duel with a “Star Wars” villain.
Instructions telling hopeful Jedi Knights the best way to grab the attention of the Jedi Master running the show said they should stand up and shout “Pick me!”
Maxford relished the idea of going one on one with Darth Vader, Darth Maul and the stormtroopers. He knew he could defeat the Dark Side.
At show time, Maxford was ready. He shouted and jumped in the air. He waved his arms. He yelled, “Pick me!”
He was not chosen.
His mother took a photo of the times the next show would be performing, rushed to the gift shop and bought him a Jedi T-shirt so he would be noticed.
At the next performance, Maxford was ready to rock and roll. He jumped. He shouted. He waved his 10-year-old arms in the air and bingo – the announcer said, “OK, the kid with the glasses and Jedi T-shirt, come on down.”
The saying, “You are only as happy as your unhappiest child,” is true. As mothers, we agonize over all disappointments our children experience. The cool thing about this entire visit was that when Maxford was not chosen, he was fine with it. He was genuinely happy for the chosen few. He jumped up and down and cheered the group on. He shouted “good job” and showed true enthusiasm for their accomplishment.
My kids would have pouted, stomped the floor and been asked to leave.
But that one chromosome determining some children are “typical” and others are born with Down syndrome has some interesting side effects. One of them is empathy.
So the next time I think about all the things Maxford will never do, I will remind myself of all the things he does do, and believe me, there are plenty of loving, kind things he does do.
He is one cool kid.
Joan Cronk of Puyallup is a former reader columnist.