The Moment I Explained My Son's Down Syndrome to His Siblings

As a mom of a son with Down syndrome, I’m often asked what I have told my other children about their brother. That question confuses me a bit. I mean, when my son Brochton was born his twin siblings were barely 2. In the two years since his birth what have they witnessed? A baby grow older, learn to crawl, learn to stand, learn to walk, learn to eat, start to talk, and become more and more interested in their toys. Sure, they saw therapists coming and flash cards flashing. But having grown up seeing this, they likely don’t perceive it as “different.” So what’s there to tell?

My husband and I decided there was no reason to give the twins different expectations for their younger brother. We are in no way parents who shield their kids from life; they know the biological terms for private parts, that people and animals sometimes go to heaven, and that the strange man asking them to help him find his lost puppy is a bad guy. So we decided that we would explain Down syndrome the minute they asked.

That day finally came. Not because the twins noticed their brother was somehow different. Not because the twins wondered why their brother couldn’t do something. Simply because their mom was crying.

You see, some days the challenges brought about by Down syndrome get to me. This was one of those days. We were leaving the beach where we had met my friend and her kids. Her daughter is three months older than my son, and at this young age, three months can already mean a big gap in terms of milestones. But I became acutely aware of the pronounced gap between her milestones and his. So after a long day at the beach, the tears just came.

From the backseat, my older son gently asked why I was crying. I answered with the truth, explaining that their little brother has something extra in his body that makes it a bit harder for him to do things. That he can still do anything he wants, but he has to work a little harder. And sometimes that makes Mommy sad.

My son responded without hesitation: “Mommy, there’s no reason to cry. Brochy’s great. We love him.”

My daughter echoed, “It’s going to be OK, Mommy. We love Brochton. Don’t be sad!”

They quickly moved on to talk about the day at the beach, and that was that. The logic was simple: their little brother is great. They love him. There is nothing to cry about.

This childlike simplicity is a beautiful reminder that, challenges or not, my son is a blessing. And there really is no reason to cry.

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