This monthly blog hop is a community project created by one of my pals Meriah over at With a Little Moxie.
One truth (about Ds/our lives with Ds): The fact that your child has Down syndrome is not a reason in and of itself to not have any more children.
When word got out that I was pregnant with Sugarplum, not all the responses were what one expects to hear in response to a pregnancy announcement. Don’t get me wrong, there certainly were plenty of folks that were thrilled for us, and sent their congratulations. And for the most part, that’s what I remember, the gracious generosity surrounding the welcoming of Sugarplum. But, then came the warnings, from “well-meaning friends”.
“Just so you know, don’t expect everyone to be happy for you. Since you already have a child with special needs, some people think it’s not good that you are having another.”
I probably shouldn’t put that in quotes. Those weren’t the exact words. It was the sum of the message. Behind it were thoughts that we were crazy to have another, because couldn’t we already see- one child was born with a disability. Why would you want to risk that again? Other’s thought we were selfish- poor Zuzu already can’t possibly get the attention she needs with all of the Quail’s needs, and now you are going to add to that? And what about the Quail- considering all you do for her how could you possibly have time for another child. Surely you’ll quit work to stay home with your children now!
Those statements, those are all speculation, opinions and worry. They aren’t truth, at least not mine.
The truth is we have little spare time in our day. The truth is our days would be jam-packed if the Quail didn’t have Down syndrome- that time spent going to and practicing what we’ve learned in therapy- well we would fill it with something else. Those visits don’t bother the Quail- she enjoys the activities in therapy, the therapists, the time out of her day going somewhere with her Mom & Dad.
The truth is, we worried too- but the fact is- you find the time to do what you need to do- and whatever might be taken up in terms of one on one time from a child when a sibling is added to the mix, is more than made up for in love.
This is our truth- our three girls- they love each other. They play together. When one of them rises in the morning they ask after the others. When one of them is sick and misses a day at school, the others want to know where she is and go straight for her the minute they return home. When one of them has a solo activity, the others pipe up with an eager, “Me too”. This past week we had Zuzu’s first grade parent-teacher conference. Zuzu is, well to put it mildly- “in charge” most everywhere she goes. Sometimes this comes across as leadership, sometimes as a Bossy Bessy doll come to life. But the fact of the matter is, she’s good at taking charge. She’s still working on finessing her approach, but she’s good. And a large part of that comes from being the eldest in her Sistred and having been given the opportunity to help out with her sisters in a variety of ways. No she’s not obligated to do any particular thing for the Quail (or Sugarplum for that matter). But she sees the intrinsic reward in being a helper. Her teacher told us unprompted-
“I’ve seen Zuzu with her sister- she’s so attentive and kind and patient- that carries over into the classroom- it’s what we see with how she is with the other students- she is good with them. If I need help- I know who to ask.”
This isn’t a one time compliment either. Her dance teacher used to praise, “If I can get Zuzu to her mark- the others follow, so I focus on her. She’s my helper.”
And last year in Kindergarten, “I always give the substitute teacher Zuzu’s name, if I’m out she could run the class.”
And in her daycare, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve asked Zuzu to help teach him his site words.”
And Zuzu, when she tells me her version of the above examples, it’s with pride, self-confidence and expectation. Like any seven year old- she has her moments where she’d like no one to touch her toys, her clothes, her homework. She has her tantrums, her whines, her complaints. But more and more, that’s not the sum of her, more and more I see that she is showing the world what she is capable of and what she knows about how we treat others.
The impact on Sugarplum is yet to be seen, but to date I can say she’s the most light-hearted of all of us. The one quickest to smile, the most content, the most laid back, equally strong-willed and equally happy to take part in her sister’s antics.
The truth is, all three girls are an integral part of our family. Our lives are chaotic, crazy busy and we have more to do than time to do it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except, maybe with a few more hours of sleep and a few more home-cooked meals….
One tip (information on something related to Ds/raising a child with Ds/or just parenting in general). That’s not to say that you shouldn’t pay attention to the impact of disability within a sibling group. You should, the truth is that it isn’t a given that it is a bad thing. How each child responds to the fact of disability in their home though- that is something to help them understand and work through if you notice they are struggling. There are a lot of resources out there- but one of the most helpful is the work of Dr. Brian Skotko. Below are also some links to research regarding siblings and Down syndrome.