Monday, October 21, 2013

October, 2011 Down Syndrome Awareness Month... Day 12

To hug or not to hug?

That is the question.

So another of the stereotypes of people with Down Syndrome is that they like to hug. Actually, the stereotype is how loving they are. Everyone always says "oh, they are so loving". The word 'stereotype' doesn't necessarily make you think of something good... but I can think of a lot worse things than being called 'loving'... can't you?

So that brings us to the hugs. Ever since Josh was able to throw his short little arms around someone, he has loved to hug. Is that such a bad thing? It doesn't matter if you are short, tall, skinny, fat, showered or stinky... his way of greeting is most often a hug (he snatches one when he leaves too... and it's not uncommon to get hugged "just because").

Now, in my years of researching Down Syndrome, I have read that maybe it's not appropriate... all this hugging. I mean, it was cute when he was a toddler... and it's nice now too because his hugs are bigger, tighter, more meaningful. But, what will it be like when he's 16? Or 23? 47? Will he still be hugging everyone? And more importantly... SHOULD he be hugging everyone?

I struggle...

I mean, I have literally seen him crack a big, burly, probably hasn't showered in a week, man. This man didn't know Josh, but that didn't matter to Josh. I guess he thought the man needed a hug. So he hugged him. The man smiled so big that everyone around him smiled. Is that such a bad thing?

When visiting the ENT doctor once, as I was checking out, Josh was making his rounds. He picked the man in the corner. The old man. The one who wasn't smiling or even paying any attention to the goings on around him. Josh stood before him and said hello. The man looked up and responded with a quick "hi", no smile, and immediately returned to his book. Josh stood for a moment (well, it was more than a moment because I had called his name at least 3 times by now) and waited for the man to look up again. Josh is persistent remember, the man could probably feel Josh staring him down! When their eyes met, Josh went forward and gave this old man a HUGE hug (yes, he literally jumped into this man's arms). And it was a long hug.

As I finally reached him and pulled him away from this poor gentleman, I could see that the man had been touched. I think he was even a little teary eyed. He thanked Josh as I apologized profusely for my son. That man looked me straight in the eye and said rather sternly "do NOT ever apologize for that. do not EVER try to change him. this world needs more of him and don't you EVER change that." And the man's wife asked for a hug. Is that such a bad thing?

I have seen his hugs make people uncomfortable too. Especially his peers because you know, when you're 8, high fives are much cooler than hugs. I understand that and deal with it accordingly. I know other parents of children with DS find this appalling... inappropriate, downright scary (the whole stranger thing). I understand their points. I know some who have chosen this as their personal soap box and work really hard at changing their kid's behavior. And that's okay... for them.

But for me... it's one of the things I love about Josh.

Is that such a bad thing?

Today's picture is from when he first began giving hugs. We used to give him lots of practice. :)

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