March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day (you know, because of 3/21), so there is no way I could pass up the chance to weigh in on this. Outside of the fact that I’ve treated kids with this diagnosis over the past fourteen or so years, one of my all-time favorite people on Earth is a part of the DS family. His name is Aaron, and he was born to one of my very best friends (a Saucy Six member, actually) four months before Emry, so he has literally been one of our crew since his initial little fluttery heartbeats.
Did we see him coming? No. Could we imagine life without him? Absolutely not.
He is funny and smart, destructive and tireless, stubborn and loving all bundled into a fiery, adorable package of four-year-old boy. And every time he points, exclaiming, “Gecka!” while lunging towards my hug, he melts my heart……which he totally knows and uses to his advantage when needed.
Aaron, like all children, loves to play and run and get his way. His laugh is infectious, his smile is beautiful, and his frown a sad little sight.
He dances to any music, any time, any place.
He sings his favorite songs.
He loves Mickey Mouse.
He adores his sisters, his friends and his family.
He is impatient with difficult tasks, situations or people.
He gets cranky when he is tired or hungry.
He doesn’t like vegetables.
He thinks his mommy is funny.
He throws toys or sand or food or tantrums, when we wish he wouldn’t.
He knows his alphabet and his numbers to 25.
He distributes hugs or hits, depending on his mood.
So far, he sounds just like my three kids. How about yours?
In the future, as he gets older, he will:
- continue growing
- go to school
- learn to read
- develop new skills
- get a job
- move out of his parents’ house
- make new friends
Again, sound familiar? I did all those things….so did my friends……so will my kids.
Aaron, and the other people around us with DS, have an extra 21st chromosome. If anything, they’ve got us all beat in the genetic information realm, as opposed to lacking anything. This addition results in DS and the complications associated with it. They may face health issues. They may have to undergo surgeries. They develop at a slower pace than their peers, and require a little more help to achieve their goals and learn new skills.
So…..some of us need a little help from our friends. The Beatles did. No one had a problem with that.
And, interestingly, we learn a lot from those who are different than us. We learn to slow down, and truly look at the world around us, often through a different lens than the one we normally wear. We learn to have patience for our fellow humans, and maybe a little for ourselves. We learn that love is unconditional, and flexible, and immeasurable. We learn that beauty comes in unlimited forms, and is found in places we never thought to look. We learn that things we thought we were scary aren’t so bad once we become informed, because fear is in the unknown.
We learn that young children are often our best teachers when it comes to embracing their friends, and we should encourage that trait as they grow.
The other day, we were driving (as usual, because all I do when I’m not working is chauffeur people around) and my kids began a conversation about birthdays and friends, etc. Emry, who is always looking for ways not to be the baby in the group, began listing her friends and asking about their birthdays. Naturally, Aaron was at the top of the list. Our conversation went something like this:
Em: “Mommy, Aaron is four, like me.”
Me:: “Yes, he is.”
Em: “When I turn five, he’ll still be four. He’s the baby.”
Me: “Well, no, he won’t be. Aaron’s birthday is before yours, so he’ll already be five when you turn five.”
Em: “But, I’ll be five first, right?”
Me: “No. He’ll be five first. You’ll still be four.”
Em: “I’ll still be four?” (I could see the wheels turning – foiled in her quest for non-baby of the group)
Em: “Aaron’s first?”
Me: “Yes, ma’am.”
(silent pause – during which I am frantically trying to come up with an age appropriate explanation as to why Aaron doesn’t have to be the baby and she does, in case she starts arguing her case with examples of why she must be the older one, given that she speaks more clearly or runs faster or jumps higher or……)
Em: “Okay, Mommy. Then I’ll be second!”
And just like that, she flashed me the hugest grin, and we were on to the next topic. It was that simple. Because Aaron is her friend, and this time, he gets to be first.
Because when she sees him, she sees her buddy, her lifelong pal, who generally is a pretty good sport about letting her boss him around.
Because friends take turns, and celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
Because different is just fine. Period.
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Extra chromosomes or not
We praise Him with all we’ve got
Jesus loves the little children of the world.