I’m a lawyer and a professional blogger for my law practice.
But I’m also a husband and a father.
My transition into these roles has been a fascinating ride.
The Blended Family.
The oldest – who asked me to call her Schwester Bird – just started high school and is a hyper-intelligent student and visual arts protege. (Read this poem she wrote)
Our middle boy – who I call Yankee Bird for his love of the Yankees and baseball – is in middle school.
For a few years, our story was one of learning to be a blended family. Momma Bird’s ex was (still is), in a word, a challenge for everyone. His drug use and generally hateful demeanor (among many other issues) towards Momma Bird continue to bring unnecessary challenges into our lives.
But we cope, and for many years had a blast, living largely happy lives for several years in Texas.
The Baby Arrives.
Then things got even happier.
In the Fall of 2012, Momma Bird and I had a baby boy – I call him Little Bird. He was diagnosed at birth with Down Syndrome.
Let me talk briefly about Down Syndrome.
You can make it a big deal – but you don’t have to. The story of introducing “Down Syndrome” into your family is, in many ways, the story of the “Monkey and the Banana”: the medical community, society, and other folks perpetuate certain myths about Down Syndrome and Down Syndrome parenting.
Here’s one of those myths – that the spelling of Downs Syndrome is in some way relevant to anything.
Don’t get me wrong – there are challenges. One of the smaller but still pervasive challenges are coping with social issues – the perceptions of Downs children as precious little angels from heaven, or retards: I despise both descriptors, but I’m not the “Word Police”.
There are much bigger challenges, though, and I will write about the ones that we face – every family’s experience with Down Syndrome will be unique. Harder for some than others, to be sure.
But the one common thread is that our children are NOT “Down Syndrome” and it does not define who they are. They are leaving being humans, with the ability to think, feel, perceive, reason, achieve, sense, observe, communicate, learn (and more). They grow up to be business owners, elected representatives, actors and actresses, comedians, accomplished athletes, mountain climbers, and so much more.
Like any child – a healthy dose of unconditional love can unlock a child’s full potential.
Both men have fears and doubts – what human doesn’t – but both are unabashedly optimistic about having a child with Down Syndrome. Both, without question, loved their sons from birth – and I think that approach can dramatically change your experience incorporating Down Syndrome into your own family .
In any event, in our search for better services, therapy, and education for Little Bird, we found Arkansas.
The Move to Arkansas.
When compared with Texas, the scope and degree and cost of services they offered children with Special Needs was mind-numbing.
We went from 1 hour of physical and speech therapy each week in Texas (at a cost of somewhere around $190 per week) to 9 hours of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy and 4 hours of Speech Therapy each week (at a cost of around $150 per YEAR). Little Bird got braces for his feet to help him learn to walk – paid for by TEFRA, the Arkansas State medicaid program.
Little Bird has just started school at age 21 months – paid entirely by TEFRA (we pay a small monthly premium).
In Dallas, the only educational opportunities for children with Down Syndrome start at 30 months, and cost between $4,000 and $8,000 for a 3-4 month program.
We paid more, to get less, in Texas. In just about every area of our lives.
So we moved to Arkansas.
Momma Bird’s family (as well as her ex’s family) are almost all here, so we have a huge family support network that we’ve never had before. We are still working through where the older kids will live – Texas or Arkansas – and hope to have that resolved in the next year.
What’s the Point of this Blog?
When I started this blog, I had no idea what kind of Voice it would be.
I still don’t.
I can’t imagine an entire blog dedicated to Down Syndrome fatherhood.
All I know is that I like to write, and want to explore and incorporate some of the creative side that I neglect – drawing and photography. And I will blog anonymously – for some very specific reasons.
We’ll see where things head from there.