‘My first reaction: what did I do wrong?’


I’ve been watching Scrubs for so long now that I think Perry Cox is real. His snippy, smartarse comments are the stuff of legend. So I was surprised today to discover that the actual Perry Cox, actor John C McGinley, is in my club. He’s a downsdad! Nobody told me. (I mean why should they, but in this day and age of instant, total media intrusion, I kinda figured…)
Anyway, his son Max is eleven, and was born three years before Scrubs started. I caught this interview with the actor at Exceptional Parent Magazine. If you ever wondered whether beneath the caustic exterior Dr Cox was really a big softie, this quote seals it:

It always struck me that parents of kids with special needs are thrust into a situation where you have an opportunity to be a great parent. Because you’re going to have to be. There’s that great lyric in the Paul Simon song that goes “breakdowns come and breakdowns go so what are you going to do about it, that’s what I’d like to know.” And it’s a declaration of do. You’re going to have to do something here. Because the kid, on a lot of different levels, is not going to be able to. So what are you going to do? What are you going to bring? And it better be a lot. And so that’s what it felt like with Max.

You’re going to have to do something is right. And we’re doing it. My friend Elbog has some ongoing and quite beautifully bittersweet insights into just how much the human spirit is doing in circumstances like ours. We’re doing something alright. In fact, sometimes when you want to sit and rock and moan and cry with the weight of it all, it’s good to be reminded that you are doing lots of things. (Hey, I’m reminding you here! Do not be too hard on yourselves because the doing can be hard enough for two lifetimes, and quit beating yourselves up for the things you’re not doing, or not doing well enough. You were always inadequate! Re-learn how to overlook it. I like you fine, inadequacies and all.)

McGinley’s advice:

Number one: you didn’t do anything wrong. The kid has an extra 21st chromosome. That’s it.

Number two: breathe. Get some air, because it’s going to be a while.

Number three: start discovering stores of patience that you didn’t know existed within yourself. Because some things—reading, writing, walking, holding your hand, having a catch—are going to take a little longer.

Don’t argue with the Cox. And you know what else takes a little longer? The realisation that the differences aren’t all in the person with the chromosomal shift. I’ve been fortunate enough through this outlet to have some fine conversations with people that I didn’t ever imagine having. I’ve learned a great deal about myself in the process, most of it I’m not all that pleased about to tell you the truth. But at least I know it now, and I’m in a position to do something about it. Let’s hope I do.

Quite eerily, I also can see when others don’t know themselves. It’s not a superpower. It’s just the extra vision that being in the club gives us. You know what I mean, don’t you?

Ok, bit of a rambling post, but I’m just somehow pleased that Dr Cox is in the club. It makes him a whole richer person in my eyes (even before I read the bit where he said he thought Ben Stiller was a little turd for making Tropic Thunder. Tee hee.)

If that sounds awful I’m guessing you’re not one of my superpowers-enhanced readers. It’s ok, only the select few know where to shop for Downs goggles. And if you’re really nice, and read lots of links, we can let you borrow them and see the world a teensie little bit like the way our amazing children do.

End of ramble.


John C. McGinley with his son Max, 11, his wife, Nichole and daughter, Billie Grace. Photo credit: Leigha Hodnet.


18 comments on “‘My first reaction: what did I do wrong?’

  1. Elbog says:

    Sorry, I thought you saw the club tattoo. ;^)
    For me, Mr. McGinley and Dr. Cox came along when I was at the height of my er, ‘angry’ phase. I, for right or for wrong, felt that I really understood the underlying pissed-offedness that he brought to the role, and so very much enjoyed his cathartic rants. DS may have had absolutely nothing to do with it, it’s the sort of question that wouldn’t ever get asked in an interview (except by me, of course). John rocks, and some Downsyn.com people have actually met him and confirm this.
    Actually, check this out:
    Ramblin Ramblin Ramblin, Ram-Blinnnnnn!

  2. lisadom says:

    Ha! I knew he was fair dinkum. So there you go. And such wisdom on the Ben Stiller. I tried to watch Starsky and Hutch last night, but it was tainted by the thought of what that little bastard would do to promote a stupid film. To promote; whatever about the deep spiritual point he was trying to make in the film, he used the lowest common denominator tactic to try and save it.
    I am glad you have discovered your superpowers Nick, just be sure to wash the lycra jumpsuit on the delicate setting.

  3. Sharon says:

    I love it. That’s there’s a real, cool, enlightened man behind one of TV’s best characters just makes me happy. His Stiller quote is perfect.

    Your advice is nice too, and for me, timely.

  4. Christine says:

    His advice to breathe is a good one. Yes, the Ds goggles makes you see a lot that you didn’t notice before. I too have seen a lot in myself that I’m not too happy about, but I have also noticed how much beauty is found in the mundane tasks of our every day lives. That said, it is not easy to find yourself living a life you really aren’t sure you are prepared for, but a life, that as parent of a child with special needs, at which you must excel. Even when things are easy; there seems to be this underlying feeling at times that it is still so hard. My daughter once said that families who are touched by Ds seem to be somehow wiser than everyone else. Maybe she has her own pair of goggles. Another great post Nick.

  5. kayla says:

    I love this post it is very well said and put. I like the slow down and breathe I think I forget to do that every once in awhile it is nuts.

  6. NAN P. says:

    I always liked Dr Cox, and I thought that such a character could not be pulled off by any actor without “something” behind it. I will definitely see him in a new light from now on.

    Goes to show, doesn’t it, that you never know what is behind the proverbial Closed Doors? Never assume…

    Nice ramble, Nick, nice ramble! And interesting too.

  7. Superb post, love Dr Cox and literally just finished watching Scrubs re-runs which I seem to do daily. Really enjoyed this post Nick, rambles and all, when is DS Dublin Dad pints night out is what I want to know, clearly we have much to discuss *

    South Dublin Dad

    * Fave Scrubs moments.

    Postscript, did you know Dr Cox comes to Ireland regularly, my mate Scott met him only a few weeks ago on Stephens Green

    Postscript 2

    Happy Xmas!

  8. Nick, it’s like you read my mind (and stole a future post). I was only just thinking the other day how much patients I have now for Cathal. And yes, it still makes me a little sad when I see other babies the same age seemingly doing so much better than him. But maybe that’s something that will always stay with me. I usually take a big breath, smile and look at all the wonderful positive things Cathal can do.

  9. downsdad says:

    Elbog – I sensed that you’d be higher up the Six Degrees chain regarding JCM than me – although if you check south dublin dad’s post you’ll see he swings by this way too. Btw, my comments seem to go missing on your own posts – and I know you’re not deliberately binning them. Just cause I call you those honest names…

    Lisa! Lisa! Retardgate will be one of my ’08 highlights for sure – and thank you for soljerin’ with me. Yeah, McGinley just confirmed it. Little arsehat, as MagnetoBoldToo might say. And as for the last battle, with that silly Minette Marin woman, I believe that she too didn’t just wander accidentally into un-pc waters. She got what was comin’.

    Sharon: Cox rocks!

    Chris: Wisdom is the word, and Katherine hit the nail. I think wisdom doesn’t ever come for free though, does it? It brings weight. But seeing ‘beauty in the mundane tasks’ is a state of grace all of its own. Sometimes I can. It’s also why I love the poet Patrick Kavanagh so much.

    Kayla: Breathing is the hard part, especially when you’re the hamster on the wheel. Work-sleep-fix the kids’ lunches-work-sleep and on and on. I hope you find the time to breathe some more in 09.

    Nan P: Thanks for rambling with me. I agree on Cox. He’s just such a pain in the arse and you know it’s for your own good!

    SDD: Aah, I can’t come out right now for manpints. I have a mancold. Should be ok by about 8.30? (But seriously, let us do this before 09.)

    Cathal’s Mam: And why wouldn’t you smile? there are so many things that Cathal will excel at, and UCD will never have a Masters in, and that realisation, fluffy as some might think it, has changed who I am for certain. I’m glad that you can see with Downs goggles!

  10. Ciara says:

    It’s weird Nick that SDD and I got into Scrubs much later than most.. around the time Ava was born in fact. That and Fraiser but that’s another story… When we were in that fog of being new parents and dealing with our new reality, SDD would put something light on the telly when we had a quiet moment (thank god for Paramount Comedy channel) and we discovered these programmes properly. Dr Cox became a legend very quickly in our eyes and am delighted to know he is in our ‘club’!

  11. lisadom says:

    Hey Nick: Stephen Fry quotes some old Bishop on the interview with J.K. Rowling cd when he says “What is Wisdom? Wisdom is the ability to cope, I guess”

    Right back at ya buddy

  12. Cal says:

    I didn’t know that about Dr. Cox either! What a great attitude he has…

  13. Jo says:

    This is all a bit post relevant maybe, but I read an interview with Ben Stiller recently, when he said that that whole ‘full retard’ thing was purely meant to be a comment on ACTORS – presumably their limited understanding of the worlds they portray and their willingness to exploit them.

    Dr Cox rocks – he makes me laugh twice as much though, as he just keeps reminding me of Glen Hansard.

  14. Sister Wolf says:

    I just discovered Scrubs this year, thanks to my son. We watch it together and always praise the lord that Scrubs exists.

    I LOVE Dr. Cox and I love the little white snowflake things here, unless I’m just losing my eyesight.

    Oh, p.s., HATE Ben Stiller with every fiber of my being. xo

  15. Cal: Cox rocks!

    HGF: Right back atcha.

    Jo: Yeah, I’ve seen the little man say the same thing, but I know he’s smarter than that. The little shit.

    SW: The snow has been specially manufactured for my SoCal friends. Enjoy!

  16. Hello im magnus johansson from Sweden in scandinavia im live in Eskilstuna Southmanland county im love dr perry cox in scrubs tv series he can play so angry so its proffessional so im think annyway im have Autism and high sensitive person HSP its werry hard to walking on the streets in my town then im feeling wery inpossable to think im crazy but im not its a wery critical situation bye bye bye see you later guys
    Mvh magnus johansson

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