Just Like Me: A Buddy Walk Story

Today was an amazing day—one that I excitedly anticipated for 7 months. In my most frustrating moments fighting health care, I looked forward to Buddy Walk. At night when I cried alone and battled the fears that crushed my heart, I knew I wouldn’t be alone at Buddy Walk. After a year of trying to survive motherhood, a turning point would be a birthday weekend and Buddy Walk. When I say, “My son has Down Syndrome” I would hear, “Me too! Aren’t they awesome?”  instead of a forced neutral expression or a genuine, “I’m so sorry.”

 2013 has been a marathon, and the last glorious mile would be Buddy Walk. Today was the day. It was just another walk for a cause on the city schedule, but it was so much more that that.Over halfway through the walk, we met a delightful seven year old. As he spotted Secondborn in my sister’s arms, he ran up and held his hand.

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He covered Secondborn in kisses and hugs, giggling and exclaiming, “He’s just like me!”

Just like me.

There is great comfort in commonality. Living overseas, it is so comfortable to hear your native language. Oh, the joy in finding another displaced Texan who understands Whataburger and that chips and salsa go with every meal. Battle buddies, foster kids, sorority sisters, sports team fans, shared struggles—we just want to find something in common so that we can connect and belong. Even the mothers who desperately want a moment alone will call other moms to commiserate. We all want to know we aren’t the only ones.

I was in a sea of people today that were just like me. I saw moms who pushed strollers and pushed their kids to succeed. Our families surrounded us, just as they stood by us during the really dark days. Friends and strangers stood by with encouraging signs and cheered for us by name, showing us that there are always people alongside us. We all wore white Buddy Walk shirts and looked the same. We looked like moms of individuals with an extra chromosome. Short, tall, thin, plump, young, old, rich, poor, married, single—moms who have walked this walk, just like me.

I saw other mothers who had endured a year of explaining what the appointments are for, how therapy helps, and being asked if we could change what we are powerless to alter. These moms were passionately celebrating and loving life today- just like me.

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My mother and mother in law saw other grandparents who learned to love in a new way and discovered new levels of pride in their children- just like me.

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My sister and brother in law smiled and joyfully declared that this day felt amazing- just like me.

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Friends who do not have children with Down Syndrome came and celebrated the life of my Secondborn today.  Despite vast differences, they declared that they loved my little guy with extra chromosomes, just like me.

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They believe he can do amazing things. They want to see him succeed. They believe in inclusion and programs to help him find a job and to live independently as possible. They think he has a great smile and sweet dance moves. Their perspectives have changed because he is here. Just like me.

The little boy today clearly understood that he was different. He is loved, cute as can be, supported and uplifted, but he is different. One little chromosome makes him, his life, his perspective, different. He looked up at my precious baby son today and saw the same blue shirt. The same bright blue, almond shaped eyes and a captivating smile.

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His mother quickly caught up and apologized with a smile, explaining that her seven year old was a very affectionate hugger. Just like me.  With an enthusiastic and genuine smile she said, “It’s a battle every day, but it is worth it!” She believed it and knew the joy outweighs the suffering and questions. Just like me.

Today thousands of people walked the same path together. We all celebrated and remembered that we are not alone, isolated, or statistics. I wasn’t a friend of a friend’s hairdressers’ cousins’ roommate, fourth removed from the dog’s side who has a kid with Down Syndrome. I was someone just like you.

Thank you to all of you who walked with us this year, literally and in spirit. Thank you for believing in my son, who- deep down- is just like you.

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He needs your love, support, and open mind to seize his full potential and change lives. Just like me.

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