“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” — Reinhold Neibuhr

I’m sure many people have heard of the Serenity prayer. There will always be things in our lives that we wish we could change, it’s part of the human condition. However, the things I sometimes wish I could change probably differ from what others wish they could change.

I wish I could change the way people look at my youngest daughter, Savannah. She is 2 and a half, and she has mosaic translocation Down syndrome. Sometimes people look at her with pity, as if they feel sorry for her. Some people act like they don’t even want her around, as if her presence makes them uncomfortable. People in our own family treat her like that sometimes. I wish I could change that.

When Savannah does things that are not exactly “desirable” habits, it’s always assumed that Down syndrome is the cause for these negative behaviors. She’s throwing her cup and her food because she has Down syndrome. She’s having a tantrum because she has Down syndrome. She’s being a picky eater because she has Down syndrome. Not because she’s a toddler and those habits are pretty common in most toddlers. But because she has Down syndrome. I wish I could change that assumption.

People act like Savannah is just like everyone else who has Down syndrome. As if everyone who has Down syndrome will look and act a certain way. They completely disregard her uniqueness. I wish I could change that.

People say things that are terribly offensive. About how they, “love Down’s babies” and that they “had one of those in their family too.” Even though I politely correct these individuals, it still hurts. I wish I could change that.

Sometimes, Savannah smiles and waves at other children and they ignore her. Sometimes adults do this to her, too. I wish I could change that.

As I go through this life, and experience everything that raising a family brings, I know the only thing I can control is myself. I can’t control the actions of others, but I can control my reaction to them. When these negative things happen, I can turn them into a positive. When I advocate for my daughter and others with disabilities I believe it helps put positive change into motion. If we want to see change in this world, we have to inspire that change. It’s up to me to inspire the change I want to see, to be the change I want to see in this life.

And Savannah deserves nothing less.

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Author: Heather Hanenburg