The Best Answer to “What do You Want to Be?” by Mardra Sikora

Marcus and I sat beside each other at our favorite Scooters coffee shop to write. We’re regulars at one particular Scooters, where they are nice to us. The general public, on occasion, puts me on edge. You see, I’m a bit paranoid and particularly attentive to who’s nice to us because Marcus is my adult son and he has Down syndrome. The patrons and employees at this Scooters tend to acknowledge Marcus but not bristle, are nice but not patronizing, a surprisingly tricky balance for some.

Because October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a website we are a part of called The Road We’ve Shared is preparing to “spotlight” Marcus. So while we sipped our hot drinks, I began asking him a few questions, finding out some of his favorite things to include in the note.

I learned from my questions that Marcus’ favorite Muppet is Walter (the new guy). His favorite pop song is “On Top of the World” by Imagine Dragons, and his favorite food is peanut butter and jelly. (Of course, I knew that last one. He makes at least one a day, it can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner.) As I typed up his replies, I sat a little surprised at his quick answers because historically, Marcus doesn’t pick a single favorite, usually he answers with, “A-bunch.” But this day, he popped out answers easily and wanted more questions when I was done. It had become The Favorites Game. “All right,” so I continued.

When I got through all of the favorites I could think of, I asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s one of my go-to questions to ask anyone, regardless of age.

Marcus blinked once and said, “Myself.”

Somewhere in my brain I heard a snap. By Jove – he’s right! Frankly speaking, those of us with only 46 chromosomes, tend to talk about being something, some title, some job. Wouldn’t it be neat if, instead, we said to ourselves – When I grow up, I’m going to be myself. The most true and best possible me. Holy cow!

When Marcus was born, I was bombarded with strangers telling me what he would never do. (Most of it was Baloney.) However one book, which I have sadly lost over the years, emphasized instead the concept of potential. A person with Down syndrome, as I remember it, given the opportunity will continue learning their whole life and have a much better chance of reaching his or her potential than many of us “normal” folks, who pretty much plateau on the learning front after age 18. Marcus is 24 and still learning all the time. I am amazed at the new concepts he embraces or new skills he attains.

Here’s something else to consider, surveys show that most people with Down syndrome tend to not only be happier than the general public but also happier with themselves and who they are. It’s only speculation as to if this is inherent in the genetics. Nature or nurture, we can learn from this attitude.

My job as a mother is to help Marcus become the best possible version of himself. I do this by encouraging his strengths and his creative nature. I try to enable further opportunities to learn and embrace new skills. I also am working on doing better at letting go, not my strength, and allowing him more independence as reaches for it. (Harder some days for me than for him.)”Go ahead, Mom,” he says, “I do it myself.”

My job as a human is to become the best possible version of myself. There is no one better than Marcus to teach me how to do that. When I vent to my husband about people’s actions I have seen or read, Marcus gently reminds me, “No one is perfect, Mom.” When I don’t know what to say to a friend in pain, Marcus responds to them with only a hug. The best and right answer, of course. When I’m too self-conscious to dance, he dances anyway.

How about you? What are you going to be when you grow up? Try the answer, “Myself.” Where would that take you next? Are you walking that path? It’s another good day to follow Marcus’ lesson.

Bio: By day Mardra Sikora balances a patchwork of community, advocacy, work and family. Also by day she writes. You can find more on her blog Grown Ups & Downs, on Facebook, and her favorite hangout, Twitter.

9 comments for “The Best Answer to “What do You Want to Be?” by Mardra Sikora

  1. Jessie DeBuhr
    October 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Mardra is very correct in her statements. Learning to be ourself is a huge accomplishment. Wonderful post! Thanks!

  2. October 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    What a GREAT answer! Thanks for sharing such a fabulous piece! Go Marcus!
    Stephanie recently posted…Feature Friday – The Road on FacebookMy Profile

  3. October 10, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    I love his answer. The next time someone asks my child that I will let her know Marcus’ response. Simply awesome if we could only learn that being ourselves is the best we can be.
    Kerri recently posted…Milestones met but notMy Profile

  4. Nicole Lindquist
    October 10, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    What an amazing response the the age-old question! I love it! Thanks for sharing as part of Down syndrome awareness month!

  5. neodyssey
    October 10, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    Mardra – your son possesses a wisdom that few will ever know. Thank you for sharing his insight with us. May we all develop into our truest selves.

  6. October 10, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    That is the best answer I’ve ever heard! Great post!
    Erin @ Her Heartland Soul recently posted…Friday Five 36My Profile

  7. Jenny
    October 11, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    I think this is my favorite post!…It was just beautiful, I loved it so much! You don’t mind if I link to it in one of my future posts do you?

    • October 12, 2014 at 12:23 am

      Feel free to get in touch with Mardra! As long as you give her credit, I am sure she will love it being shared!

  8. October 28, 2014 at 2:09 am

    This is awesome. We assume we could be a better self only if… I wish we cold all learn that most of us are actually already doing the best we can and that’s good enough.
    Julie @ HostessAtHeart recently posted…KolachesMy Profile

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