This past weekend my family was able to celebrate two people that are on my Most Loved People On Earth List: My siblings!
March the 20th was my brother Jamison’s golden birthday. And as most birthdays tend to do, it caused lots of thinking and reflecting on the birthday boy! Jay is not one for the pouring out and declaration of sentimental feelings and emotions, so I’ll keep this brief for his sake. Jamison is hilarious, and anyone who meets him can see that within moments of being with him. If you are in need of a laugh, ask him about bathrobes or for a Kevin Malone impression. Jay is dedicated and loyal. This is obvious, as he is an unswerving Knicks fan (to be a faithful fan to the NBA is one thing, but then to one of the worst teams…now that is steadfast). Jamison—despite his occasional “I’m tougher than nails” exterior—has the most tender, caring heart (See Photo Below). He truly carries the joy of the Lord in him! And, he is a WONDERFUL brother. I love him very much!
March the 21st was a day to celebrate my 2nd sibling: Alaina Jae. Not a birthday, but a new “holiday” in our home: World Down Syndrome Day. It is celebrated on 3/21, as Down syndrome is the trisomy on the 21st chromosome. I love this day for so many reasons. It helps to raise “awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.” It gives us the chance to appreciate every little ounce (including each extra chromosome) of who God has made Alaina to be! Her beauty is seen and recognized every day, but 3/21 is a day to give those extra chromosomes a little extra attention!
The photo below was taken at Laina’s school on Friday. Her sweetheart of a teacher and all of her classmates joined the celebration and wore silly socks to school…Pretty sure it made everyone in my family get a little teary eyed. The purpose of wearing these socks is to get people talking about DS. Plus, it’s a fun way to show some spirit and brighten up the room, just like people that have Downs oh so often do!
Having a sibling with Down syndrome is quite similar to having one without. It is so easy for me to see the similarities in my relationships with my siblings. With both, I LOVE spending time with them. They both make me giggle. They both challenge the way that I speak and act. They both love eating ice-cream for a bed time snack. They both love me unconditionally. They both want me to constantly play outside with them. And they both make me a better person.
As these relationships and siblings are similar in ways, they are also so very different. Largely because there is a 14-year age gap between the two—so when I say they both want me to play outside with them, Alaina is wanting to me to take her to the park, while Jamison is wanting me to stand under the hoop so he can dunk over me. But as expected, there are many differences because of Alaina having Down syndrome, not only in sibling dynamics, but also with other children. Here are a few examples: It takes Laina longer to learn. Laina isn’t fast (you should see her run, it is adorable…but not quick in the slightest). Alaina has traits that make her look distinct from the rest of the family: a tiny nose, almond eyes, a cute chubby back neck, and sandal gap toes.
Often times, our society views these traits with negativity and in a demeaning manner. And sometimes, the traits that come with Down syndrome are undesirable. It is tough to see infants go through heart surgery like many babies with DS have to do. It is tough to watch a little sister not be able to keep up with the other children on the playground. It is tough to see her struggle to expand her vocabulary and academic skills.
It is NOT tough to watch her smile or hear her giggle and sing. It is NOT tough to see the way our sweet little neighbor girl loves her and how they interact together. It is NOT tough to witness her childlike faith. It is NOT tough to listen to her tell me she loves me. It is NOT tough to eavesdrop when she says her prayers. It is NOT tough to hold her squishy little, low-muscle tone body against mine. It is NOT tough to love this little one with my whole heart.
This is why I love WDSD. It gives us the chance to celebrate the beauty of Down syndrome and all those who are rockin’ the extra chromosome.
So mark it on your calendar people, WDSD March 21st, 2016, and you can participate too! Until then, there is a lot you can do! Learn more about Down syndrome, and do some research…the world is at your fingertips! Pray that Laina and her friends grow “strong, and smart, and kind” (she does it every night!). Also pray for children with Downs that are waiting in adoption agencies for loving homes. Send an extra smile, lend a helping hand, or love a little better someone with special needs. Oh, and enjoy some of my (oldie) favorite photos of Miss Alaina Jae! (:
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
“He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:36-37