Love and Sexuality

Siobhán Stuart’s latest in her series of articles for Frontline Ireland Magazine gives us an insight into the experiences of her son as he discovers sexuality and relationships...

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This subject is not an easy one, and is still a taboo topic for many parents, but I believe that our DS sons and daughters will show us the way, as they are naturally loving and caring, and enter relationships easily without any of the hypocrisy usually associated with the subject.

Our son, Julien always had lots of girlfriends who enjoyed his company ever since preschool days. Probably because he wasn’t boisterous, he has a gentle, kind, contemplative nature and is physically very attractive.

julien 1With the onset of puberty his body, like all teenagers, began to transform and the hormones started to kick in. I remember one particular day, he was watching TV and suddenly he says “ça bouge” which means “it’s moving”. I asked “What’s moving? the room? the house? the entire planet?” – I realised what he was talking about, so we broached the subject of sexuality. I told him that what he was feeling was totally normal, that he could express his sexual impulses in the privacy of his own room but never in public. We put a lock on his bedroom door so that when his girlfriend came to visit he could, with her consent and that of her parents, invite her to his room.

We discussed everything as his questions arose, and he always had a well-adjusted approach to sexuality. The problem of contraception is another issue, however; in general, DS males tend to be infertile.

The problem for parents is to allow their DS children to grow up and become adults, to enjoy their secret garden where they can express their emotions, be able to discuss matters and be as willing to accept the partners as they do their own child.

We had the experience of one such parent who decided that our son, Julien, would make the perfect match if only he spoke better and conformed to the mother’s criteria of how a future son-in-law should behave. If only she could erase his trisomy 21 ever so slightly. My son reacted by no longer wanting to go to her house so I told her he didn’t go there to please her but to see her daughter. To which she answered, it was only normal that she should correct our son as she hoped we would do the same as regards her daughter. Needless to say, that relationship didn’t work out, although it did last 4 years. It’s very important that both parents share a common desire to make their children happy.

julien 2It’s important to respect our children’s choice but it is often difficult for parents of both partners to see eye-to-eye. The other difficulty is the physical possibility of meeting up or getting together. Very often, they meet each other but don’t necessarily live in the same town, so the parents have to help them if there is no public transport to arrange their meetings. Our other children do this automatically without our consent, but here the parents must actively participate in these encounters. Our son, Julien, took the train from Nimes to Paris (Roissy) for several years every second weekend before his relationship concluded by Fanny coming to live with him – and Fanny did the same journey for many years.

Julien 3Our DS children are extremely spontaneous when demonstrating their emotions. I often told my son that his extra chromosome meant that he had something more than us: his capacity to love and to be loved. I think their needs for affection can sometimes be overwhelming for parents and it is very satisfying for everybody when they can channel their emotions into a relationship which is fulfilling for both partners.

When they don’t have this outlet they often get depressed like the others of a similar age or they invent an imaginary idol, pop star, singer or whatever, to fulfil their dreams. Their physical and sexual needs should not be ignored as in the past, when they were seen as angels and therefore asexual, permanent children, or devils with a dangerous, unbridled sexuality which needed to be harnessed and controlled.

Our children have proved that they are capable of living a normal life like their peers if they are given the opportunities and the necessary accompaniment.

04 - JulienThis article doesn’t claim to be a definitive guide on the subject, but it does have the merit, I hope, to open the discussion and perhaps share our opinions with others.

Siobhán Stuart , Julien’s mum is Irish, and has lived in the south of France for over 36 years now – she  married a French man, and they have 3 children, Julien being the eldest. The three children have grown up well, all three have careers and are living with their partners and Siobhán retired recently from her job as an English teacher.

1 COMMENT

  1. Very helpful article.
    I was in contact with Siobhan about 19 rs ago through Down Syndrome Ireland’s parents online discussion Forum. I would love to hear from her again if she has time.

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