I have discovered that the gene for hugging is on the 21st chromosome. Actually, I have a feeling I'm not the first to discover it. Probably many parents of children with Down syndrome have discovered this.
Anyone who has met Ryan knows that he LOVES to hug. And, at school the other day, I noticed my friend's little girl, Grace, hugging another parent as well. It seems that the duplication of gene 21 in the Down syndrome chromosomal make-up has also doubled the urge to hug.
Now, personally, I love it. Ryan gives the best hugs ever. And don't ever tell Kurtis this, but he really does give better hugs than other kids. I think it has to do with the low muscle tone that many kids with DS have - their bodies just seem to melt into yours and it is one of the most delicious things in the world.
Ryan loves to hug - me, his Dad, his brother, his grandparents, his cousins, aunts and uncles, his teachers, his classmates, a perfect stranger off the street.... I think you get the picture. Most of the hugging is OK. But we are trying to get him to stop hugging perfect and almost strangers. It is unfortunate, but today's society dictates this need. It would be a wonderful world where it was acceptable for Ryan to hug everyone he saw - I truly believe our world would be much better off if everyone practiced this behaviour. But, unfortunately, we don't live in utopia. We live in a world where there are scary people and people who will take advantage of Ryan's loving nature. So, we have to teach him that it is inappropriate to hug people other than those in his family and his "circle of friends".
The other day, at soccer practice, he ran off the field to a gentleman with a beard and gave him a hug and sat on his lap (he loves beards and loves to run his fingers through the beard). I quickly ran over and pulled Ryan off with a quick word about how we only hug people we know and not strangers. The man's wife was very quick to say it's OK and that they don't mind at all. Most people say that - they don't mind... in fact, I think they rather enjoy having a cute little boy come over and hug them. But when I replied that it is cute now, but it won't be cute in the future when he hugs strangers, the woman was quite quick to agree with me and I think she quickly realized the inherent danger in this behaviour.
So, once again, I am struck by the beauty that people with Down syndrome seem to carry around with them. And I am deeply saddened that I have to teach my son that it is NOT OK to hug that woman with the dog that we met walking on the street. Honestly, she did look so much happier afterwards. But, we will continue to do this for Ryan's safety. And, once again, if I could bottle this affection and love, I'd be a millionaire!