What’s sad about having a child with Down syndrome?

My last post was about Amy Julia Becker’s powerful book, A Good and Perfect Gift, about her daughter Penny who has Down syndrome. The book raises wonderful questions about the value of human life, all human life and not just the lives that include advanced degrees and things our society values most. And since we at SPACIOUS are all about being open to “otherness,” to people we might not normally know or connect with, I’ve found that this book has broadened my thinking on such things.

Becker wrote a passage that I circled, starred, underlined and mused over for some time. Here it is for your own musing:

“I realized that I had always assumed it was very sad to have a child with mental retardation, or, for that matter, to be a person with mental retardation. But why? Why was that sad — because our culture held the intellect in such high regard? Because life was only as valuable as what we could produce or what academic degrees we had attained or how attractive we were or how big our house was? What was sad about having a child with Down syndrome?

“I started going for a walk with Penny every day. The green shoots of daffodils strained towards the sky. The trees grew buds and the earth absorbed the morning dew.  And I finally realized that my real question had to do with goodness– what, if anything, in how Penny had been formed was not good? In a Nietzchean universe, of course, her existence was a tragedy, plain and simple — an accident, an abnormality, biology ‘gone wrong.’ But in a God-created universe, what was good and not good in her? And was it any different from that which was good and not good in the rest of us?”

Great questions for all of us to ponder: “How do we typically define ‘good?'” and “What are our standards of perfection?”

One thought on “What’s sad about having a child with Down syndrome?


  1. I don’t know a lot about Spacious, but I know from this thoughtful piece that it’s good.

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