Life lessons from living with Craig

When our second son, Craig, was born diagnosed with Down's syndrome, it was a complete surprise and shock. My wife and I felt all alone and wondered what to do next.

Looking at the little fellow, my wife said squeezing her hands together, he seems to be telling us that he won't need much space. Indeed, he is the most unobtrusive person one can imagine. Although we have had to make some special provisions for him, like sending him to the right school, we have always treated him as a whole person.

Now a young man, Craig still cannot speak. But in his own gentle way, he has taught us much over the years about trust, honesty, and a boundless capacity for joy.

When Craig was about 5, the three children, a daughter having been added to the family, and my wife and I went walking in the woods.

After a reasonable walk, we turned for home. But Craig sat down, communicating to us that his walk for the afternoon was over. As I looked down at him a thought began to form: "If you don't get up you will be left behind." I didn't say anything. But one look at his expression of complete trust told me he was saying, "You have absolutely no intentions of leaving me here."

I picked him up and carried him home.

Of course, there were times when we had to discipline Craig. But, in this case, the purity of his trust - that I was there to support him- made this the proper response.

At one point we built a new house for ourselves. We took Craig with us to inspect the construction. At that stage, the walls were just going up. Enthusiastically we showed Craig the site of his future room. He looked as if to say there was no way he would exchange his present comfortable room for an open space surrounded by half finished brick walls.

Of course, we explained the roof and doors were still to come. We all laughed, including Craig, as he realized his misunderstanding. Then he did what he always does in such circumstances. He shook hands with everyone just to show no hard feelings.

It has always been Craig's opinion that a quick round of handshakes removes any tense atmosphere. A lesson for life?

Craig now lives in the country as part of a small group in a home run by a dear lady. He comes home often so we do not lose touch. When he first took up residence, it was explained that house rules were to be obeyed at all times, especially no stealing from the jar of sweets, which are given out after supper each evening.

But one morning his housemother's suspicions were aroused when she spotted Craig alone by the jar.

She was relieved to find that Craig wasn't helping himself. In fact, he was putting several days worth of rations back in the jar. He isn't big on candy and had been hoarding his share.

Craig has grown to be a gentleman without guile or meanness. Without saying a word he is able to bring a sense of humor and tranquillity to all around him.

I feel blessed by his example. I have only one question: "Craig, tell me how you do it?"

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

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