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To My Daughter With Down Syndrome on Her 3rd Birthday

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Today you turn 3. These past years I’ve learned the true meaning of success, love, patience and inclusion. You are everything you were meant to be and more, you’ve pushed every limit and succeeded every single expectation. When the goals seem so out of reach, when you are so frustrated and tired, you look up at me and smile.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected such a strong, determined, intelligent child. When I say you are all these things I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

In your first three years of life you’ve gone to over 1,000 appointments — yes, I am not exaggerating. You’ve had four sleep studies, gone under anesthesia five times; two for surgeries. You’ve had countless x-rays, bloodwork, swallow studies and many hard days of rough tests at the hospital. You’ve been a part of research studies, attended a college class on physical therapy, went to dinner at Harvard Medical School, and walked in your first fashion show to raise money for the hospital that is continuing to change your life. You are about to complete your first year of dance with a recital, you attended your first session of the Young Athletes program through the Special Olympics and earned your first of many medals. These are just some of the things you’ve done already!

I live and breathe for you, and now I need to let go. School is going to give you what you need to learn, and you’ll gain so much more out of me as your mother for it. I’ll still try every day to teach and reinforce what you’re working on while at home, and I’ll still have your goals on my mind, but we are going to learn together. Or should I say, you’ll be teaching me what it is you need! Knowing you’ll be getting the tools you need on a daily basis is the most exciting part, no more hour long therapy sessions, your therapists will incorporate therapy into what you are learning with your friends. And I think you will love it.

I feel like a chapter in our life together is closing, maybe it’s not but I won’t be there anymore when you are “working”. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. Part of me thinks maybe we’ll get to have a “normal” life, then I laugh out loud because first, there is no “normal,” and second, we’ll still go to private therapy as needed. All I know is no matter what, at the end of the day we’ll climb in your bed together and take turns reading your favorite Dr. Seuss book together.

We’re slowly coming out of our “safe” little bubble of other kids your age not realizing that you aren’t exactly like them. This is the scary part I think about every night. It already happened with your best friend who said “she doesn’t talk.” She only said this because it is mostly true and kids always speak the truth! It didn’t bother me that it came from her, she’s observant and very smart. But it made me think about what’s to come.

This cloud over my head about you making meaningful friendships and being in an inclusive setting will probably never go away. I can handle it because you handle more than I could ever imagine. You have a vibrant, amazing personality and I can see you genuinely longing to play with others and keep up. When you want to do something you always try, you preserve through not being able to communicate to your peers, and you enjoy yourself the whole time. Watching you grow into the person you’ve become has been nothing short of a privilege, you’ve made me a more confident woman and mother. I cherish every trait you have — even your stubbornness. All the amazing things about you are going to help you learn, make meaningful relationships, gain independence, and tackle everything life throws your way.

Happy 3rd birthday Sunshine.

Originally published: June 7, 2019
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