I kicked myself for not preparing him more. He had custom designed the shoes months before on the Nike website and asked for a pair as one of his most desired Christmas gifts. I liked the shoes so much myself that I had failed to think of the consequences of a 14 year old boy wearing hot pink tennis shoes to school.
I knew that if I came and picked him up or brought him another pair of shoes that he would never wear the shoes he loved so much again. And something precious would be lost in the process.
That morning Caspian had woken up and been brave enough to be himself. He had put on shoes that were different, that were unique, shoes that shined on the outside what he feels like on the inside. And I wanted him to have the courage to do it again. In fact, I wanted him to have the courage to do it every day for the rest of his life.
If I rescued him I would be teaching him that it's okay to hide who he is from the world. But if I didn't rescue him I would be teaching him that he can't come to me for help. It seemed like there were no right answers.
At last it hit me, another part of this equation that was equally important. There are people who cannot take off the shoes that they've been given in life. They have no choice but to walk around showing their differences to the world. In fact, Caspian's younger brother Benny is one of those people. Because he has an extra chromosome his differences will always be visible.
So I gave Caspian three choices. I could pick him up and let him hide at home. I could bring him his white shoes and he could take off the pink ones. Or he could tough it out. Then I reminded him that his brother can never take off his Down syndrome shoes. I told him that someday when the kids are teasing Benny, he can tell him the story about being teased and what he decided to do.
I honestly wasn't sure how Caspian would respond. He is a sensitive person, and fourteen is a sensitive age. A few minutes later he responded, "I'll stay here".
Caspian has never complained about having a little brother with Down syndrome. From the first moment that he learned about the diagnosis he accepted it and said that it wasn't going to effect how much he would love the baby. This is more of a zen attitude than I can say I had myself. I know that there are probably times that it is hard for him, but he has stepped into and filled his big brother shoes with a kind and wonderful heart.
March 21st is National Down Syndrome Day. Typically it's a "wear your crazy socks" day to celebrate the diversity that people with an extra chromosome bring to our world. This year we're not only going to be wearing crazy socks, we're going to be wearing our crazy shoes. Not only are we celebrating our son with down syndrome, but we are celebrating his big brother too, and the courage it takes to wear different shoes even when you don't have to.