One woman offered up, laughing, "My sister wanted her girl to be pretty. I didn't care about that. I just wanted my daughter to be smart. Please, God, let her be smart."
The other women laughed in agreement.
My heart sank a little. I was so disappointed to hear her say that. I might have even been a little mad, because of the inherent importance and superiority it displays of "smart" children over "not-as-smart" children.
But really, who doesn't hope for that? I had to check myself and cut the woman some slack.
Those women all had very natural, expected desires for their babies. I mean, really, who proclaims, "Please let my child have below-average intelligence"?
I know for a fact that Gary and I hoped - expected - our child to be intelligent. Most people do. Just like everyone hopes to have a "healthy" baby (which means overall general health, and also means no spina bifida, no Ds, etc.). Can I blame them (and us) for that? Absolutely not.
But it is an example of how we, as a society, place importance on - even rank order, if you will - human life.
And here's the kicker...
Sheridan is smart. He's very clever. He's certainly earned Gary's new nickname for him: Mr. Mischievous.
But most people will not see Sheridan as smart, they will only see his diagnosis. And his intelligence doesn't even matter. He's brilliant in many ways... his musicality, his empathy, his kindness, the list goes on... and so many people will miss all of it.
Yes, it is their loss, but in some ways it's ours (and especially Sheridan's), too. How many opportunities will he be denied because of traditionally narrow definitions of intelligence, and society's easy dismissal of those who who have an intellectual disability? It hurts me to the depth of my soul to think of others marginalizing Sheridan. Pushing people with intellectual disabilities into invisible shadows.
I have no doubt that if the woman in the parking lot had a child with Ds, she could rise to the occasion and would have a different perspective on her comment.
And just to keep it real here... as I mentioned, I'm not immune to these perceptions myself. On Sheridan's very first IFSP (when he was only a few weeks old), we were asked what our biggest concerns were. What were our biggest priorities? Here was our response, as written by Sheridan's service coordinator:
A whole big box full of room to list concerns, and that was it. Two words. The biggest concern for us at the top of heap.
The telling thing is, those two words haven't made the top of the list (or even been written in that box at all) since then.