I think at some point we have all given some thought to the kind of relationship siblings can have with their brother/sister with Down Syndrome. So if your are a mother expecting a child with DS or just given birth to a child with DS and have been thinking the same thoughts that I did and still do sometimes, I can say that not only do I have living proof but I have also seen in this DS blogging community just how wonderful sibling realtionships can be. Sure children have questions and it's best to answer them the best way you feel they would understand. Why does their brother/sister still not walk at a certain age, not speak, why do they need to go for so many therapies and doctors appointments, and whats with all this exercise they do at home? These are questions that will come up at some point.
I have spoken to my son Vir and he knows that Saira happens to have something called DS, perhaps he still doesn't understand what that will mean in the long run, but he does know that because she has DS she is taking longer to do stuff, for example Saira still can't walk unassisted and she still doesn't talk and she needs our help alot, he sees that she has to be taught alot of things that other kids do naturally. I have told Vir that there are many other children who have DS just like Saira and sometimes they might look a little similar, but they are all different from each other. I'm not so sure if he understands yet that his sister will always be just a little different from the 'typically developing' child and that it's not just right now when she's so small but what I do know is that no matter what he adores his sister just the way she is.
Talking about Down Syndrome to a child of 7 is not always easy, explaining about cells and chromosomes and how children with DS have more doesn't exactly make sense to them. I had written a post perhaps over a year ago asking what others did with their older kids and I got some very useful ideas about how to explain things. I remember this story about the cake, how children are like cakes, for eg. they are made with so much flour, so much butter and say 3 eggs all the usual stuff, now children with DS are made up of the same amount of flour and butter but instead of the 3 eggs they have 4 eggs in them, the cake ends up looking a little different but it still tastes just as delicious and everyone enjoys eating it as much as the other cake. O.k. so this is just a basic explanation, but it was an easy way to start. In the meantime I have explained a little more to him about what DS means and what it will signify for us in relation to Saira. I now realise that I don't have to constantly explain things to Vir anymore, he sees and loves his sister as his sister and the DS does not become the bigger thing, he know its not so easy for her to do all the things he did just automatically but that doesn't take away from his love for her. He sees how Saira adores him, and how her eyes light up the moment he walks into the house after school, how she is so very interested in everything he is doing and when he gets back from school they have this reunion which consists of many many hugs and kisses, like they haven't seen each other in days. He also fights with her and complains to me about how she's beating him up (considering she not even half his size!!!) but this is great because isn't this what all siblings do, play, fight, laugh, complain the whole lot....and here I was worried at one point if they would ever have the chance to share these very things? Ask him if he would exchange her for another brother or sister and he shouts back "NO WAY! I want my Saira" Well there I have my answer.
So to all those parents who have also worried along with me, it's normal, I know I did my share of it and sometimes I still think about the future and I know there will be challenges for all of us but we'll deal with them when they come, for now I look at the two of them together and I read about all the wonderful sibling relationships here in Blogland and it only confirms to me that we really don't have anything to worry about, the relationships our children share are very special, it is what will make our non DS children into mature, loving, sensitive, kind human beings and one day adults we will be very proud of.
Some photos taken over the last 2 years.....
Greeting him back from school
o.k. that looks like fun...let me have a go
o.k. then I need to pull a little harder
well if I can't have it I've just got to pull off his lip off