Did you know that children begin judging others based on physical appearances and differences as young as 3 years old? Raising my firstborn son, who happens to have Down syndrome, has opened my eyes to not only how quick we can be to judge others based on their differences, but also to the beauty that comes from embracing these differences.
When my husband, Mac, and I found out we were pregnant, we were thrilled. Ecstatic, really. Like most expecting parents, we began dreaming of who our child would become. We love a good surprise, so we decided to wait to find out our baby’s gender until he/she arrived. We read parenting books, decorated the nursery, and waited anxiously for their arrival. Then, the day finally came!
About an hour after he was born, Mac shared the news that our newborn baby had Down syndrome. I’ll be honest -- it was a hard moment. I cried. Our emotions were all over the place. There had been so much excitement, but fear and grief crept in as we digested the doctor’s diagnosis. Delighted to have our healthy son in our arms, but worried about the unknown.
In the first year of Guion’s life, we frequently met with parents and their children with Down syndrome. We wanted to grasp what Down syndrome was going to mean to us. We eventually came to the realization that Guion and other children with Down syndrome weren’t so different after all. Children with Down syndrome have interests, talents, dreams, and a full spectrum of emotions, just like everyone else.
Little did we know how Guion would grow up to exceed our expectations and brighten our world in every way. We keep our expectations for Guion high because we know what he is capable of if he is given an opportunity. An opportunity to succeed and yes, at times, fail, just like everyone else does along their life journey.
BUT, I noticed then, and still witness now, that Guion is looked at differently. People see him and immediately see Down syndrome. He has so much more to offer if you give him the chance. Guion is easygoing and has a sense of adventure. He’s shy and incredibly funny. He loves music and singing. He’s caring and especially perceptive of the emotions of those he loves. Guion is a person with Down syndrome -- not a Down syndrome person.
Because our world is not black and white, there are so many ways to view it. Guion sometimes has a more creative view of the world. One time, for instance, when he was enjoying a slice of a rainbow cake, he paused and pointed at the cake, “Hey mom, I see pride rock from Lion King!” How enlightening it is to see something from someone else’s perspective! It’s Guion moments like these that inspired me to write the children’s book Guion The Lion.
The reality is -- we’re all different. We look different, we have different personalities, we like different foods, we enjoy different activities, and we see the world around us differently. Similarities may bring us together, but it’s our differences that make this world a beautiful and colorful place. I do not want any of my children to miss out on this beauty!
Guion the Lion is about an imaginative little lion who sees things differently from his friends.
Using colorful illustrations and charming animal characters, the story shows that new perspectives can open the door to unexpected fun. My vision is for this book to present a message of empathy, curiosity, and adventure before children begin making their own judgments and assumptions. My hope is that it encourages children, and parents alike, to embrace others’ differences and perspectives.