The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” never resonates with me more than after I had Troy, my son with Down syndrome.
I’ll be honest, I’m a conformist. A follower even. I’ve blended my whole life. I was never the richest kid, or the smartest kid, or the prettiest either.
But what happens when you can’t blend, because you were born to stand out?
My Troy stands out. His visible disability brings instant judgement wherever we go:
From fellow moms: “Can he climb those playground stairs?”
From other kids: “Troy, let me help you with that.”
From his teachers: “I am shocked that he’s potty trained and knows all his letter sounds! But we’re still not sure he can keep up in higher grades. May be you should consider a resource room.”
Even from sweet grandmothers: “Oh, those children are always so happy. Your son is an angel sent from heaven!”
These comments are all well-meaning, which is what makes them sometimes hurt the most.
In my experience, I can more easily ignore and shut out the uneducated jerk who treats Troy like the plague.
It’s the good intentioned comments that I receive on a daily basis that weighs me down. I at once want to hug them for their desire to “want what’s best for Troy,” and punch them for instantly and subconsciously assuming “he can’t.”
Their comments often catch me off guard, because 99.9% of the time ALL I SEE IS TROY—NOT Down syndrome.
It’s a constant internal struggle.
That’s why I simply adore a recent pick by my beloved book club called “Wonder” by Raquel J. Palacio.
It’s a pre-teen book (one of my personal fav book genres) about a boy named August (“Auggie”), who has a severe facial deformity. At 10-years-old he leaves the decade-long safety of his homeschooling career to enter a private middle school.
You can imagine the drama that ensues.
This thought-provoking, witty, and eloquently written book will have you reeling, especially if you’re directly connected to someone with a visible disability or just different.
Auggie is introspective, vulnerable, and hilarious.
The book starts out with Auggie declaring “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
He’s not a novel device or token disabled kid. Neither are the other characters, which I found especially fascinating.
There’s characters in the novel that never come to accept Auggie, or see him as anything other than “other.” But there’s also truly inspiring friends, who are amazing because they learn to see Auggie for who he truly is: a smart, funny kid.
I cried while reading the perspective of Auggie’s parents. They at once want to shield their child from this brutal world, but also push him to reach his highest potential. Any parent can find commonality in their story.
And the perspective of Auggie’s sister, Olivia (“Via”) particularly stuck with me.
I worry about the impact of Troy’s disability on my typical children, as much as I worry about Troy.
Will they resent Troy, or my husband and I for the extra care that Troy sometimes needs? Will they be bullied, because their brother is different? Will this visible disability ruin their life?
Via taught me to take a deep breath, and embrace the mess that is life.
Yes, she does some time resent her situation (don’t we all at one time or another), but she’s the only character who somehow inherently embraces her brother and pushes him to live life like no one else.
Get this book! Have kids you know read it. You won’t be disappointed!
The movie version, starring Julia Roberts, Jacob Tremblay, and Owen Wilson, was supposed to come out this past February. It has been postponed to fall of 2017.
I “wonder” if viewers will be able to embrace this movie, understand it’s impact, and not judge a book by its cover.