Each year, on March 21st, we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day. There are lovely articles written from parents’ perspectives, about raising children with Down Syndrome, but this year, I am writing about the gift of having a sibling with special needs.
I think many parents worry how their other children will be impacted by a sibling who has additional challenges, but from my experience, these challenges (and their accompanying joys) have shaped me into a more compassionate, empathetic, and resilient person.
Having a Sibling with Down Syndrome Has Improved My Life
My brother will turn forty, in May. He has Down Syndrome.
Having a sibling with special needs has enriched my life in ways that Easy Street never could.
There are unique challenges that come with this reality and unparalleled joys as well. And I wouldn’t trade either—both have their place in the development of a well-rounded soul.
I don’t know how my parents juggled it all, but I don’t remember being resentful; they supported and loved each of us individually and as a whole. My assertive, attention-seeking behavior probably was draining to my parents, as I now realize how full their plate was, but they graciously and sacrificially invested in the four of us.
When Brian was born, and in those early years, my mom was concerned about the effect on the rest of the family, in having a child with special needs. She didn’t want us girls to feel burdened, deprived, or resentful.Having a sibling with special needs has improved my life in many ways. #WDSD19 #DownSyndrome Click To Tweet
But looking back, my mom said, “I needn’t have worried; each of the girls has more than risen to the challenge. They embrace their brother and enjoy his uniqueness. All through the teenage years, Brian went with his younger sisters to Youth Group; on mission trips; to camp. We didn’t expect this, but the girls just did it. In recent years, all three daughters have had their brother come to their homes to stay. In one home, he’s the resident uncle; in the others’ places, he hangs with the singles crowd and experiences big city life.”
We had a choice as a family, we could try to tie up everything in a tidy bow and constantly be frustrated, or we could face the unknown, together…getting stronger as we walked this winding path as a team.
As a first born girl, and self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist, the imperfect and unpredictable normally bring me great frustration, as I try to control and improve on all I can. But when I’m with my brother, I am presented with the fortunate opportunity to lower my unrealistic expectations and uncover great joy. And oh this is good for my try-hard soul.Having a brother with Down Syndrome has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. #WDSD19 #DownSyndrome Click To Tweet
The heartbreaks I experience when Brian is made fun of, make me a more compassionate human, and less machine-like. The unknowns about his future, cause me to be less annoyed by his quirks and more thankful for time spent together. The way he picks out just the right card to lift my spirit, after five seconds of “looking” at the Hallmark store, never ceases to amaze me.
Let me assure you, my brother is a gift to me. In my brother’s presence, I feel freed from the need to measure up. I don’t have to impress him (but man, I hate disappointing him).
I also write about Brian in my book, Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done. Pick up a copy at your favorite retailer.
You might also like:
What It’s Like Having a Sibling With Down Syndrome (Confessions from a Type One on the Enneagram)