One warm summer day, many years ago, when our youngest son Tim was a teenager, we were holding our annual “Down Syndrome Extravaganza” at our house. Most people would call it a picnic. However, “extravaganza” always seemed like a better descriptor to our family as the gathering of so many families, with so many children with Down syndrome and all of their siblings simply offered the opportunity for unexpected events to arise.
We had some years that we hired neighborhood teenagers to ensure we didn’t lose any “runners” in the chaos. One year, Tim had a good friend with Down’s who was very interested in movies and proceeded to empty all 50-75 DVDs from their respective boxes, scattering them randomly all over the floor while seeking the perfect fit for his viewing interests. On another occasion, we even had a rabid racoon appear on our front porch while friends were arriving with their families and food in tow. As we’ve said many times, “It is never a dull moment here!”
My favorite DSE event, however, was the year that Tim was giving tours of his room to guests as they arrived. He’d redecorated his room with Elvis Presley paraphernalia, and was eager to share his collection. Visitors were only allowed in one at a time. He even asked me to serve as his “bouncer.” I had fun standing at the door watching as Tim talked with each visitor. As one of our friends lingered in the room making conversation, Tim finally looked at him and declared, “I’m sorry Mr. Nolt, but your tour is over. Don’t make me call security.” My “bouncer role” quickly reverted to “Mom mode” and Tim and I had a quick little chat about what it means to show hospitality to our guests. Tim was definitely giving folks mixed messages.
The truth is, we all give (and receive) mixed messages to (and from) others fairly frequently…