One would think that growing up with a sibling with Down Syndrome would have been challenging… maybe even a little sad. That, however, could not be further from the truth, speaking from my experience.
My baby sister was born on December 30, 1980. She looked like a living doll. She had a head full of dark hair and the prettiest brown eyes. My mom was not aware that Bethany had Downs Syndrome until she was born and the pediatrician came in and told her. Being only six at the time, I can’t even remember how my parents explained it to us. I do remember hearing the words “special” and “different” a lot. It didn’t matter to me, I had a sister!
I don’t remember really hearing my parents talk about the “situation” much… I’m sure they did plenty of talking in private. I do remember being in our old station wagon and my mom crying. Just driving and crying. I didn’t get it. Had someone died? Was someone going to die? Why was she crying? Now, as a adult and mother, I TOTALLY get it. There she was, thirty years old and a mom to three kids… one being mentally handicapped. Motherhood alone gives you a huge fear of the unknown and can bring you to tears… I can’t even begin to fathom the stress and the worry she had. Will my child be ok? Will I be ok? Will we be able to provide what she needs to thrive? Will my other kids be ok?
My parents did an AMAZING job raising us. There was never a time where I felt I was being “short-changed” because I had a sister with a disability. My parents were present for everything we participated in… all three of us. My track meets, my brother’s basketball games, my sister’s special olympic events, they never missed one. I never felt I had to fight for their attention because of my sister. There was plenty of unconditional love and support to go around!
Now my sister is 37 (!!!!). She is a character, for sure. She knows what she wants, what she likes, and won’t accept anything less. She is an amazing aunt to her nieces and nephews. As kids, my brother and I had lots of exposure to other kids with disabilities, and I am forever grateful for that. I have tried to provide that same exposure to my kids, as well. They truly are a pleasure to be around and so loving. They don’t really know how to hate… something our world could use more of right now.
If you have the opportunity, take your children to a special needs class or a special olympics event. You will definitely walk away feeling happy and inspired. I truly feel that they teach us far more than we can ever teach them. I know my sister has for sure.
I found this quote and LOVED it:
“Down Syndrome happens randomly, like flipping a coin or winning the lottery.” (author unknown)
So with my wine in hand, I toast to my sister, Bethany, for teaching me to value and celebrate people’s differences. Thank you for always making us laugh and keeping things interesting. I’m glad we got the winning ticket!!