A Letter to My Daughter With Down Syndrome as We Begin 2018

Dear Hannah,

You totally rocked 2017. The list of milestones and achievements is almost unbelievable.

You progressed from five independent, wobbly steps, to walking around the house like a boss. While you know being carried is much faster you usually compromise with holding hands when we reject your laziness. Couches and chairs are no longer obstacles, unless you’re trying to climb while carrying food. You work diligently at unzipping bags and putting on clothes, hats, headbands and jewelry. The self-praise when you succeed is a necessary part of the process.

Watching you run or perched at the top of a slide takes my breath away; it’s equally adorable and nerve-racking. Please realize I will never stop saying “be careful.” More important than learning how to move your body, you learned that it’s OK to fall. We’ll always cheer for you because falling means you tried. In the rare case you do cry, we know it’s bad. I joke with people that I’m starting a toddler rugby or roller-derby team for you because you’re the toughest kid I know.

Your tenacity helped you master the art of physical comedy. We noticed your comedic chops when you were only weeks old, looking at us, wondering when we’d get the joke. You quickly graduated to impersonating us (hands on your hips like Mommy, groans of achy joints like Grandma, muscle-man pose like Daddy) realizing it resulted in smiles and laughs. Your interest and ability to imitate us is likely why you excel at learning sign language.

Over the summer, you leveled-up with overly exaggerated gestures and pratfalls followed by sighs and laughter. Your expressions, combined with verbal reactions, make you a walking-talking hyperbole.

During this past year you also discovered how to use your voice. We’ve seen you watching our mouths move as we talk, studying how to make those same sounds. Hearing you speak a new word amazes me, even if it comes out sassy as heck, because I know how hard you worked to form it. You sure have figured out how to share your opinions and blossomed into a talented toddler negotiator. It’s not always stubbornness we hear. You can request certain foods and songs and love to point stuff out to us at home or the store. Best of all, the carseat and bathtub concerts are longer, sillier and more understandable.

Sadly, there’s been some communication frustration lately which proves your desire to speak and your need for new signs is greater than my ability to learn them. Is that why you don’t talk much at school? I promise your teachers and friends will understand you if you’re patient. Your cartoon princess voice masks your underlying determination, whether you’re trying to get someone to laugh or to get your way, so I know you have the ability to bridge the communication gap.

Now, my little love, don’t think 2018 is going to be carefree. You set the bar high and we adjusted our expectations accordingly. You’ll be starting school soon: taking the bus, meeting new friends, learning a new routine. It’s OK to be shy at first, but don’t hide that magic for too long. Your classmates will help you grow and learn and you’ll teach them about acceptance and inclusion. Your new teachers and therapists will have big girl goals for you in preschool; I believe you’ll crush them all.

We have no doubt you’ll succeed this year. You’re life began with a foundation of perseverance. You’re strong-willed but equally kind and silly. Add in those big blue eyes, long blonde hair, charming smile and you’re the human form of a Disney heroine.

Love you always,


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