When your Dad called me to tell me that your brother had Down syndrome, my world stopped for a minute. I dropped the phone and fell to the floor. The first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Oh God, this doesn’t feel real, this doesn’t feel real, this doesn’t feel real.” The next thing was, “Oh no, poor Violet, poor Violet, poor Violet.” Of course my thoughts turned to you, sweet girl.
For 16 months you were my world. I can honestly say that I cherished all of our days together—OK, I could have done without some of the teething ones! I really did try to soak in the little details of the day-to-day: the giggles, playing peek-a-boo and reading the same books over and over again. But when I learned about your brother’s diagnosis, I sadly exited the present and lived in your future.
Instead of focusing on your first words, I focused on your middle school years. What if someone made fun of you for having a brother who was different? What if I got too overwhelmed with his special needs and forgot about your needs? All I could think about was how this wasn’t fair to you. What I failed to think about in those first few weeks was how wonderful his diagnosis could be for you.
I didn’t know that 97 percent of children who have a brother or sister with Down syndrome feel pride for their sibling and that 88 percent of kids also say they feel their brother or sister with DS made them a better person. This is my hope for you, Violet.
When you see Anderson working hard to accomplish something that comes so naturally to you, I pray you learn humility. When you are tempted to judge someone based on his or her appearance, I pray you think of your brother and how he will be judged. When you are tempted to complain about life’s little annoyances, I pray you instead feel grateful for your many blessings.
I hope you teach each other to cherish life—find the beauty in all the small things, live with gratitude. I hope you teach each other to love.
I know you may grow up sooner than your peers, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Because of your brother, I hope you can bypass some of the shallowness that comes with youth. I hope because of your brother, you will live life fearlessly and maximize all of your talents. I hope you see your brother and realize there’s a big world with many needs outside of your school hallways.
So, I’m not sorry your brother has Down syndrome. I don’t think it’s unfair anymore. In fact, I feel that you are at an advantage because of his diagnosis. You have the secret to life right in front of you. Being popular doesn’t matter. Having the coolest car in the High School parking lot (which you won’t, by the way) doesn’t matter. Being pretty doesn’t matter. What matters most is this: to love people, all people.
Galations 5: 6
“…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Please know that your brother is so fortunate to have you as his sister. I know you will learn from him, but he will also learn from you. You are kind like your dad and feisty like me. We know you will be not only one of his greatest teachers, but his protector and his friend. He’s so lucky.