Growing up I only knew of exactly one person with Down syndrome. She was the older sister of a friend from school. We lived on the Westside of town and went to a smaller private school. This family also became our neighbors when I was in high school but in all that time I’d never had a single interaction with this girl. Fast forward 10 years later, I still live in and am a part of this same community but it wasn’t until a couple months ago when I was grocery shopping with my girls and KC was doing her typical “hiiiii” attacks on unsuspecting shoppers and store employees that I finally met this now young woman. She was bagging our groceries while KC started ferociously waving her down and yelling hi to her. She gave a polite hi back but kept focused on her work. When she was finished bagging she looked up while asking if I needed help out to the car and that’s when she finally got a good look at KC. She gently grabbed my elbow and leaned in and whispered, “does she have downs?” I smiled and nodded a yes. She responded with an even bigger grin while exclaiming, “well I do too!” My heart was melted. It was such a sweet moment. I wish I’d asked for a picture. She didn’t know in that moment that all along I’ve known exactly who she was. She didn’t know how many times I’ve thought about her over the last two years and how much those thoughts of her and her independent, employed self have encouraged me and how much I enjoyed hearing her embrace who she is and then proudly exclaiming it too. I think about how as women we so often struggle with embracing who we are, always searching for a “new and improved” version of us. Not her though, she had enough confidence in that moment for both us. We said our goodbyes and that seemed to be then end. I was ecstatic at how that moment almost 20 years in the making finally went down.
Today though, it got sweeter. I had an opportunity to sit down in my living room and chat with her younger sister under completely separate circumstances. She was kind enough to share with me a little bit about their relationship growing up and it warmed my heart to see her face light up as she spoke of her sister and life with their shared room and just their overall togetherness all throughout their childhood and then now her sisters role as an aunt and even the way her sister often times just wants to do her own thing with her own friends. I was able to breathe another sigh of relief as I cherished that moment that I feel like was so beautiful written into our lives.
I spent a lot of time thinking about how I pray that my girls will always love and look out for KC and I thought about how Sometimes I wonder what I else I would expect, of course my girls will always love each other, they are sisters, right?! They have no choice! But the truth is that they do have a choice. There are adult siblings everywhere that don’t get along. I realize in pondering this today that the state of their relationship has nothing to do with whether or not someone has a disability or diagnosis; it has to do with their hearts. Today I pray that my girls hearts will always be tender towards each other. I pray that one day they call KC to hang out or come help watch the kids and she’ll get to tell them she can’t because she’s too busy with her friends or her work. Today I’m thankful that someone was willing to share their experience with me so that I can do everything in my power to raise all three of them in such a way that they see the importance in how they treat and include each other now will help shape their hearts for the future of their relationships. I’m thankful my thoughts and fears about life with Down syndrome are constantly being broken and replaced with new, beautiful thoughts and inspiring moments.