I Watched You Dance: What I wish I could have told the father of an adult son with Down Syndrome (SeriouslyNotBoring.com)

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Dear Father: I once watched you and your adult son, who has Down Syndrome, enjoying an outdoor summer concert together. I still think about that day, because I couldn’t stop staring at the two of you (but not for the reason one might think). The relationship you have with your son was one of the most beautiful, precious things I have ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to talk to you and your son so badly, but out of respect for you (and my husband, who gets embarrassed when I make a scene) I simply observed from a distance. But today, as I reflect on what I witnessed, you continue to have my admiration.

First of all, let’s talk about your son. He is awesome. His gleeful abandon as he experienced the music and his love of dancing was infectious. And clearly he has rhythm. He kept right in sync with the drumbeat that he so obviously loved, plus that Slinky he was waving around in time to the music was a nice touch. I was concerned at one point that others may be looking at his unique dance moves with scorn or derision, but to my relief that did not occur. There was simply happiness and laughter and music. The rest of the crowd seemed to appreciate your son’s enthusiasm.

And then there was you, as you danced with your son and watched him freely float about the dance floor. Since he is an adult now you have obviously been parenting for many years, yet it seemed to me as you looked at your son that you still saw him as your little boy. I have my own little boy with some special needs, and lately I have been feeling very tired. I was encouraged by the fact that there was no weariness visible in your eyes, only love. You smiled as he lost himself in the dance, and his joy became your joy. I took note of the way you sometimes watched from a distance and allowed your son space to express himself, yet gently guided him in the right direction when needed. You were amazingly tender and patient and attentive. Any child would be lucky to have a father like you.

When the grand-babies arrived the scene got even better. It was beautiful to see how excited your son became when his little nephew arrived, and to watch him lovingly stroke that little head. I watched how you wrapped your arms around that baby and your son, and then the three of you danced together. It was a beautiful dance. You are obviously also a doting grandfather, and you are leaving an incredible legacy to your grandchildren through your positive example. They will grow up knowing not only how to be kind, compassionate people, but also how to be more accepting towards those who may be different in some way.

As other relatives continued gathering on the dance floor I saw a family united. How wonderful that someone with Down Syndrome could be born into such a caring, close-knit support system. They all seemed to treat each other with acceptance and respect and love. I am sure you have had many incredible adventures together over the years, like the exuberant dance party that weekend.

Dear Father, I don’t know if you will ever read this, but I want you to know that I admire you. It was a privilege to “meet” you, even if from a distance. Watching you and your son inspired me, touched me, and taught me. In those few moments I learned a lifetime of lessons, and not just about special-needs parenting. Your behavior made me want to be a better parent and a better person. The kindness and joy that I saw in your eyes~ I want that. The connection that you had with your children and grandchildren~ I want that, too! Thank you for showing me such a beautiful example of family and love. I wish you all the best, and hope you keep on dancing.

The concert we attended was at an outdoor mall over the July 4th weekend. Maybe one day the Father will read this and recognize himself. 

An additional shout-out to the Kings of Swing… you guys and gal(s) ROCK and your concerts are always a treat. Thank you!

4 thoughts on “I Watched You Dance: What I wish I could have told the father of an adult son with Down Syndrome (SeriouslyNotBoring.com)

  1. Beth July 10, 2014 / 4:59 PM

    As a parent of a teenager with Down syndrome I really enjoyed reading your glimpse into our lives.
    I want to explain that a when a child is born with special needs there is lots of tumult and uncertainty. Gradually, the family discovers the silver lining that comes along with the unknown. That family at the KOS concert most likely wasn’t such a caring, close-knit supportive system initially. It was a regular ordinary family. Once a baby with Down syndrome is born the family becomes extraordinary. The child brings so much love and learning–a zest for life (which you observed)–it’s contagious!
    We, who have personal experience with Down syndrome, often wonder why people are afraid of having a child with such a disability.
    We wouldn’t miss it for the world.


    • Jennifer (Seriously Not Boring) July 11, 2014 / 2:55 PM

      Thank you, Beth. I really appreciate the feedback and am glad that you enjoyed reading it. I always wonder if I got the words out right and the message will come across in a positive way.
      Even before I had a child with an ASD there was a special place in my heart for the special needs community. Now that I am a parent I have learned much from my son and from our journey. I also think that special-needs parenting, and the joys and challenges that come along with it, can be a crucible that reveals our true nature. I suspect that the families who become “extraordinary” and rise to the task were probably already extraordinary to begin with, they just may not have had a chance to show it yet 🙂


  2. Full Spectrum Mama July 14, 2014 / 3:11 PM

    Just beyond beautiful. Not condescending or disability porn in any way but genuine love and enjoyment and learning!!!!! I love the observation that this father did not look fatigued — and was glad to see it as I too feel very, very tired right now. So anxious about my son starting middle school i can’t even describe it…Love and thanks, and SO hoping he sees this!


    • Jennifer (Seriously Not Boring) July 14, 2014 / 3:14 PM

      Thank you! I WAS indeed worried that it may come across as “condescending or disability porn”. They really were inspiring and deserve nothing but respect.
      Hope Middle School goes well, I am sure that is a scary transition!


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