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10 Things I Love About Having a Kid With Down Syndrome

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My son, Parker, has Down syndrome, and I feel blessed and grateful for him. Here are the 10 things I love most about him:

10. I love how awesome toddlers are.

They’re funny, cute and have big heads on teeny little human bodies. It makes you go “awww,” and it’s the same lethal combination that has made many kittens famous on the Internet.

Parker’s a little sponge. He taught me kids with Down syndrome learn from everything and everyone around them with enough repetition and consistency. I love how rewarding the results can be when I introduce a new play therapy or simply teach him the dance moves to a new nursery rhyme.

9. I love celebrating his achievements.

Parker started walking a full 16 months later than his sister did. Having a child with developmental delays changes you. It’s an additional layer of vulnerability your baby has, and it makes you love and fiercely protect them a little extra.

Parker is 2 and half years old and only started walking as a full-time mode of transport last month. I knew he’d get there like all the other kids. He just burned through a few extra pairs of trousers from his super-fast crawling first! It may have taken a little longer, but the buildup made the party even bigger.

The most special part is when we catch up with friends and put him on the ground to let him run over to them. Their shining eyes tell me they’ve been holding their breath for this moment just as long as I have.

8. I love his ability to slow me down.

Before I had Parker, I lived a fast-paced life, working full time with a kid in primary school. I was always trying to stay on top of everything: getting to work on time, meeting deadlines and scheduling catch-ups with friends for fear of dropping off their radar. I judged myself on my ability to be a mother and kick all my other goals.

When he was still a babe in my arms, I was lying on bed at home and breastfeeding him during my work lunch break. His oxygen cannula was taped to his nose and face, as it frequently was for his first 16 months. I watched him playing with my security office pass I hadn’t even had time to take off. And I realized it wasn’t a matter of “kicking all my goals.” It was just a matter of kicking them in a different order.

I took leave from work and started kicking the goals I truly wanted for myself. I took a day to celebrate my own life and held my first-ever birthday party. I started writing. I took my kids to the park after school. I started helping in my daughter’s classroom and discovered a different version of her I never knew existed.

Now, sitting outdoors and watching my pink-cheeked toddler running around the backyard makes me so grateful I took that option. I was inspired by him to think outside the box and make that happen. My deliberately slowed-down, scaled-back life has been on fast forward ever since.

7. I love to read to him.

I am a self-confessed bookworm. At first, I grieved having a child who seemed so different from me on diagnosis day. But children with Down syndrome are far more like their family members, and his love of books has helped me cement a bond with him. Every time he runs over with his latest favorite book, it reminds me how unique every child is, disability or not.

6. I love the community he gave me.

In the very early days, I hesitated connecting in real life with other parents who have children with Down syndrome. I was comfortable staying behind my computer screen in our hospital room, talking to Facebook groups and posting in forums.

But I discovered the Down syndrome community is like any other. People make lifelong friends and are brought together by their love of their children. And sometimes, you find people who crawl into your heart and can’t be shaken out, even on your darkest of days. Because they had their own dark days, too, and know exactly what to say.

5. I love it when he wakes up early in the morning.

Now that he’s learned 5 a.m. makes Mommy upset, we’re mostly on the same page. I scoop him from the bed so I can collect my neck squeeze from those strong little arms. Seeing his face is pure happiness. He breaks into a smile with those beautiful big eyes squashed behind folds of sheer joy. He’s the cheeriest morning person I know.

4. I love his kisses now that he’s learned to keep his tongue in.

Why do toddlers insist on recreating kissing scenes from “The Bold and the Beautiful?”

3. I love his ability to just chill out and take it all in.

This kid has been on more hospital adventures than I ever had been in 30 years. He gets overwhelmed as any toddler would, but with some quiet moments to debrief and a few gentle words, it’s like he recalibrates back to awesome mode.

2. I love the value I’ve seen him add to the lives of others.

Friends have talked about their new ability to see past the surface in all facets of their lives and find more meaning in the little things because of Parker. I don’t know how he does it. It’s Parker Magic, so I can’t explain it. But if you’ve ever known anyone with a disability or a difference, I suspect you know what I’m talking about. A person’s worth isn’t always weighted by the dollar value they bring to the community. There’s no scale that measures the actions he has inspired in others.

1. I love his smile.

People can’t help but smile back when they see it. And most of all, I love knowing Parker saves his sweetest smiles, his strongest cuddles and the best of his love for me. I won the genetic lottery the day my son was born.

Katrina Abianac the-mighty-07142015-004

A version of this post originally appeared on Parker Myles

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Originally published: July 14, 2015
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