On the day that our daughter was born, we were new to the fact that she was blessed with Down Syndrome. This was a new world for us because neither myself or her father knew anything about it. Over the next few days, we did minor research, trying to prepare ourselves for what could lie ahead. As her mom, the one thing that stuck with me wasn’t “how are we going to do this“, but rather “how is the world going to treat her?”
Since she wasn’t my first born, my son is nearly twenty months older than her, we had additional people to take into consideration in this new chapter. He was so excited to have this cute little girl added to our home, yet we knew that there was so much that needed understanding. Being that he was quite young, we took baby steps in explaining his baby sister’s differences to him.
Fast forward to last year. Both kids are in school and doing remarkably well. They have blossomed, grown, and are learning to experience life outside of mom’s grasp. Its scary, yet they are loving it. Throughout the past few years, we gingerly spoke to him about his sister’s diagnosis. The conversations were always small, to the point, and sugar coated. He understood as well as a small child could, but he knew she was a bit different. We spoke to him about caring for her because we were unsure of how well she could care for herself in social situations, things like that. Their school was insanely accommodating by placing them close together, in different classrooms. They had contact throughout the day, allowing her to become comfortable without her security blanket, aka her brother.
She trusts him. She relies on him. She looks to him for guidance in so many aspects. He knows this, he can feel it.. and let me say, I am so proud of the protector he’s become. He plays with her at recess, checks on her through their school day when mom can’t be there, makes sure she’s safe.. the list goes on. He’s the best!
As much dread as I’ve felt about this day, we’ve recently been faced with it. Someone, another child, causing her physical harm because she doesn’t stand her ground. When we realized what had been happening, I can honestly say, I’ve been torn apart ever since. To know that someone will take advantage of a person just because they are different is exactly what I’ve feared since the day she was born. My first reaction was to remove her from the situation, get her home safely as quick as possible, and place a bubble around our family. I was infuriated, sad, and washed with a new realm of emotions.
Through her years, I’ve had fears, yet never truly encountered something like this. But.. when this happened, our son was the person to stick up for her and tell his dad. He told his dad that someone had done something unkind to her. So much gratitude goes to this boy for protecting his little sister when his parents were not there. (I’m not going to get into details because they are irrelevant at this point). He stepped up and made sure that we were aware of what had happened to her.
It saddens me to think of placing such a huge responsibility on a child to protect another child, yet making him aware of the potential dangers, unkind people, in this world, is a necessary precaution. I never want to be the parent who drives her child to grow up too quickly for my own good. I pray that it comes across to him as being a caring, loving part of a family.. and that’s a job for all of us.
He’s just a boy. The sweetest, soft-hearted, most loving, ornery little boy I could ever be blessed with. He may be young, but he’s a giant.. nearly as tall as me! (trust me, that isn’t saying much, I’m bordering the size of a “pocket pal”!)
In our role as a family with a special needs child, we’ve also been given the task of creating boundaries more significant than we previously imagined. And that’s okay! We understand that we will encounter people who aren’t prepared, or know how, to “handle” our dynamic. And that’s okay! We are aware of the possibility of losing people from our lives because the lessons taught in other families/households aren’t up to our standards. And that’s okay! These are all things we’ve considered, but have made peace with because the most important part of our journey is keeping our children safe, happy and most of all knowing they are loved. The rest is an after thought that is taken for granted most of the time anyhow.
My son is a rock. He has a playful heart, a backbone stronger than some adults, and a demeanor of an old soul. He may be ornery, like all kids, but his heart is kind because he was created in light. God made him this way for a reason.. because only He knew that a short time later, he’d be given a sister who is slightly different from him. A sister that looks to him for guidance, understanding, protection, and a playmate for years to come.
After all, he’s just a boy needing the same love, respect, and understanding as everyone else.