Salut, Bob!

Teach him to be kind.
Teach him to be a nurturer.
Teach him to have empathy.

Sullivan recently turned 3. I’m not sure how time seems to pass so slowly, especially these ‘groundhog days’ we seem to be living, but in the blink of an eye, 9 months has passed and we’re celebrating Sully’s 3rd birthday.

One of his favourite gifts this year is a beautiful doll from – this miniland doll has Down syndrome features. Yes! You read that correctly – there are features commonly associated with someone having down syndrome apparent on this doll. The eyes are slightly almond shaped, the nose a little flatter and a slight separation of toes are some examples.

This doll has become a prized possession in our home. It’s not uncommon to see the doll being lugged around under one of the boys’ arms, some days more gently than others.

Pictured is Sullivan, the author's blonde haired, grey eyed, 3 year old boy, wearing a sweater and jeans. He holds a toy miniland doll that has realistic features of a child with down syndrome. In front of him is a toy John Deere tractor.
Proof that boys can play with dolls AND trucks. After all, toys aren’t gender specific!

Teach him to cherish.
Teach him how to practice emotional-regulation.
Teach him to be caring.

One of the best parts of having this new toy in our home is hearing the boys playing with it. You can hear them practicing social skills as they interact with the doll, replaying some of the things they’ve learned or experienced recently as though they are processing the situation out-loud. And that’s apparent in the name they chose for the doll.

When Sullivan opened his gift and saw the doll, he was excited to begin playing with it. Almost immediately, he said “Salut, Bob!” to the toy.

Yes, Bob.

You might think that it’s because he understands that Robert has Down syndrome, and the doll represents a little boy with down syndrome. But you’d be wrong, the name isn’t (to him) a nickname for Robert.

In the event that your children aren’t being babysat by AmazonPrime or Netflix during Covid-Days while you are trying to work-full time from home and hopping on your umpteenth video conference call of the day – there is a show called Bob le train that airs on AmazonPrime. Bob le train rides through a city landscape and picks up the letters of the alphabet (in alphabetical order) to take them to their destination. Nearly every letter cheerfully greets the train with “Salut, Bob!”. And so, my children when playing can often be heard saying “Salut Bob!” to their toys.

As much as I would love to make up some sweet story about how Bob the doll was named, this story is so much more authentic (and representative of the times we are living).

Teach him to be gentle.
Teach him that toys are not gender-specific.
Teach him to be loving.

And while some may say that the dangers of our son having been gifted a doll for his birthday might include taunting by ignorant adults, we know that the benefits far outweigh those potential dangers. This doll is offering our boys the chance to practice compassion, kindness and empathy, which we try to model daily at home for them. And more importantly, it’s providing Robert with the chance to see himself represented in the toys we have in our home.

Summer Camps

Can you believe that January is more than half-way done? It’s true! Days are getting longer, the sun is shining down on us a little brighter, and, while we are in the middle of our first big snow storm this season, spring is (finally) on the horizon.

I am not winter’s biggest fan. I love the warmth of the sun in the spring and the blossoms the season brings. I love the hot summer sun of July, eating ice cream and playing at the beach in August. I love the crispness that fall brings.

Ice cream come
Enjoying ice cream in June

So now that the holiday season is over and I can feel the sunshine on my skin as the days get longer, I look forward to summer.

Summer camp registration in our city has already begun – so it’s a good thing I’m thinking about summer plans already. With 2 boys in daycare, we only have Robert’s summer camp schedule to think about this year. Last summer I was on maternity leave, so the hunt for camps was not pressing, and more of a ‘nice to have’ experience for him (and a break for me with a newborn in the house).

My husband and I will both be working this summer, and while we have amazing support from the grandparents, we feel as though summer camp is a rite of passage for kids, and one that we don’t want Robert to miss out on.

While we are in a position to need very few weeks of care, we know that transition to school is difficult when Robert has been out of a routine. Camps offer the opportunity to have a set routine, where Robert follows a schedule and can therefore be more successful on the return-to-school transition.

Now we find ourselves looking for a summer camp that seems impossible to find. The exhaustion is real, and we’ve only just begun to piece together the options for summer care.

Currently, our options for French language camps are very limited.

One camp can accommodate Robert if we are able to provide a support worker. This camp isn’t funded through the City’s subsidy program, so we would pay the full camp fee in addition to paying for a support worker for Robert. This camp has great reviews from other people, and the director has a fantastic reputation. However, affording to pay for a support worker in addition to the fees for week of camp might put this one out of reach.

Another camp appears to be subsidized through the City, making it more affordable for us. However, when we reached out, they gave us the impression that any child who is not a typical child and therefore one who requires any type of support would not be welcome… we are pressing them for more information and for clarity on this. Once again, this camp looks like it isn’t going to be the right fit.

A 3rd option I have yet to reach out to, but was provided with contact information from a friend. We are hopeful, but we have to be realistic. The likelihood of a camp being affordable for us, accessible to Robert, and welcoming and safe, is starting to seem unattainable.

It’s January 21st and I am already exhausted over advocating for our son to be included in summer camps.


This about that. I am already exhausted about advocacy for him to be included in programming 6 months from now.

Just when I feel as though our son is included – he’s loving school, getting invited to friend’s birthday parties, getting invited to hang out on PA days with classmates – and that we’ve come so far in acceptance and advocacy, something like this happens.

We are pulled right back to being reminded why we have a FULL WEEK in November dedicated to spreading awareness. We are reminded why shouting his worth is necessary, and the importance of advocacy in our daily lives.

It’s 2020, and we find ourselves standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, of those who fought for acceptance, inclusion, and for others to see the worth of people born with Down syndrome. We know that our son is no longer expected to be institutionalized at birth, and as we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, we recognize how far we’ve come as a population of advocates.

It’s 2020, and we are reminded that we still have to forge a path for inclusion for those who will come after us. That we still have a long way to go.

We could give up on the French language camps. As I said, we are fortunate enough to be able to work out a summer care schedule for Robert without needing camps. We could simply enrol him in English language camps, like we did last summer. But the point is, Robert should have the right to be included in the summer camp experience, and he should be able to attend a camp offered in his First language.

It’s 2020, and instead of fighting for our son to be included, he should simply be included.

After all, he’s a vivacious, smart, tenacious and active little boy, who brings so much to the table when he’s included.