Shortly after giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome, while searching the internet for information, odds are you’ll find Kelle Hampton’s blog. When you decide to search for it again later, you’ll probably see one of these two suggestions from Google: “Kelle Hampton annoying” or “I hate Kelle Hampton”.
So…who is Kelle Hampton?
Kelle Hampton is a blogger, photographer, and mom of two, the youngest of which has Down syndrome (sound familiar?) She takes her children to the park and to tea parties. She makes Dora cupcakes and goes on picnics. She always has time to drop what she’s doing to meet her friends (with kids in tow) for lunch or a few hours on the beach. She lives in south Florida, so the weather is always prime for shooting. I love to look at her photographs. But I rarely read what she writes – most of the time I barely skim the words.
But I don’t hate Kelle Hampton’s blog.
Kelle Hampton shows the world a slice of life of which Down syndrome is one small ingredient. She told her daughter’s birth story to the world through her blog, and although it’s very different from my own, it rings true for many, many mothers of children with Down syndrome. She is an inspiration for many, and for that I respect and appreciate her.
But I probably couldn’t be Kelle Hampton’s friend.
My purpose here is to be a source of encouragement. Often, that encouragement comes in the form of positive, feel-good posts, because I believe that my life is good. Like Kelle, I “enjoy the small things” each and every day because of my very special children. But sometimes that encouragement comes in the form of heartache and pain, because I believe that sometimes people just want to know that others understand the dark places deep inside them. By contrast, Kelle’s blog is perpetually positive. Her photographs are lovely, and her life is visually perfect.
And I think that Kelle Hampton’s blog is a little bit dangerous.
Being a mom – with or without non-typical children – is hard work. It isn’t rainbows and unicorns and perfectly-iced Dora cupcakes. Her children are beautiful, and special, and worthy of love, but they can’t possibly be perfect. Down syndrome isn’t a tragedy, but it also isn’t all magic and love and joy and gratitude.
I’m not saying that Kelle Hampton is a pretender.
Maybe she truly is that uber-positive and maybe she really never does have a Bad Mom Day. What I am saying is that by only showing people the positive, she’s (at best) inauthentic, or (at worst) she’s doing the rest of us imperfect moms a disservice. When you’re a mom of a kid with special needs, people tend to put you on a pedestal. They admire you from afar and say things like, “God only gives special children to special people,” while simultaneously thanking their lucky stars that they aren’t you, because they “couldn’t handle it.” We aren’t worthy of the pedestal, and we handle it not because we’re strong, but because it’s the hand we’ve been dealt.
Kelle Hampton “handles it” with style and a perpetually sunny disposition. I “handle it” without makeup and with a lot of frustration. We both have something to say to the world about living life as a mom with a child with Down syndrome.
So I don’t hate Kelle Hampton, but I’ll only skim her perky prose – after I post a few pictures of my perfect kid baking perfect cookies.
Tell me how you feel. Is perpetually perky a good thing or a bad thing? Do you prefer blogs that are uber-positive, or warts-and-all?
Update (12/21/11): Some of the comments have become a bit too negative and personal for my comfort. I want to keep comments on this post open because I believe there is valuable conversation going on about “warts-and-all vs. uber-positive.” However, I don’t wish for it to become the place where people attack me, KH, or other commenters. If you’ve come here with an agenda, don’t bother to comment. Otherwise, I welcome your perspective.
In other words – it’s my blog and I’ll delete if I want to.
Update (2/5/12): Comments have been closed. See my final reply below.