From the moment he was born, it seemed like my son Daniel couldn’t wait to start experiencing everything life has to offer. My wife and I would have appreciated if he could have waited a few more minutes: barring a last-second save by a doula, Daniel would have been born on the floor of a hospital bathroom.
My wife realized that Daniel had Down syndrome before I did. In the hospital room the day after he was born, she showed me his tiny hands and told me about something called a single palmar crease. My first reaction was denial. I Googled desperately on my laptop, telling her the names of people that have a single palmar crease without having Down syndrome (“See, Hillary Clinton has it! So does Tony Blair…”). My denial only lasted a few minutes, until the doctor opened the door and gently shut it behind him.
I remember having so many questions when we received Daniel’s diagnosis. Frustratingly, most of them weren’t the kind of questions you could type into Google: Would Daniel be healthy? How much would he talk? Would he ever be able to read? How would people treat him? Would he fall in love? How long would he live? Would he have a happy life? As time passed, some of those questions were answered, at least partially, but new questions constantly emerge.
It can be humbling as a father to realize I have so little control over Daniel’s future, so I try to appreciate the things that I can control in the present. I can make him laugh. I can play catch or read a book with him. I can take him to places he loves to go, like the pool and the library. These things are so easy for me to do and bring him joy beyond words.
As he enters middle school and all the familiar questions remain, I’m proud of the sweet, curious, and passionate person he has become. In some ways, he still reminds me of the baby I met all those years ago: the one that couldn’t wait one more minute for his life to begin.