Wednesday, December 28, 2011

#1 - Things I wish I'd known about Down Syndrome 6 years ago

I wished I'd known Cate was way more like other little girls than different.
I think my biggest fear when I was first in the hospital after Cate was diagnosed was that she wouldn't have a fun childhood like mine. I worried she wouldn't never have real friends, those little girls to play dress up with, have tea parties and all that fun stuff I had imagined when I was pregnant.  And although it seems crazy now, I guess at that moment I pictured her as a 5 year old still playing with baby toys and her only friends being other kids who did the same thing.   I also was mourning the lost dream of meeting other moms that I could be friends with like my mother did (she is still very close to people she met through my childhood activities).

It didn't take long to realize that as an infant Cate was no different than any other infant, except she wore a heart monitor to bed.  If anything she was an easier baby - I could take her anywhere, feed her anything, she didn't cry much, loved to cuddle, and slept through the night very early.  As she got to toddlerhood there was a period where my fears came back as she slid behind her peers in major motor skills like walking (she was 22 months) and talking.  As I had feared her main friends outside of daycare were the kids in her DS playgroup.  Was this some terrible thing to be sad about? ABSOLUTELY not, I have met the most amazing women through DS groups and the kids Cate played with were just kids.  They play at the playground while I talk to the other  moms about them and life in general.  These were exactly the play dates I'd imagined even if the discussion subject matter was a little different, things like therapists & specialist.  As for friends - Cate has great friends now as a kindergartener.  A perfect mix of her DS playgroup friends, friends of the family, and friends from her kindergarten class that live in our neighborhood.  And those moms of the kids in the neighborhood are awesome women as well.  They have no idea how special they are, they accepted Cate without question, they invite her to their parties and include both of us in activities.  I read blogs and boards, I know this is not the case for every family but for us the neighborhood has been incredibly accepting.

Now at 6, Cate plays with dolls, dress up clothes, princess stuff, her kitchen, and puzzles – the exact same toys all her friends are playing with, once again she is more like her peers than different.  So now I know that it make take her longer to reach some milestones but she always catches up.  I’ve learned the hard lesson of not comparing her to others and celebrating each milestone, not only hers but also her sister and her friends’ achievements as well – and that makes life so much sweeter than being competitive.
As for tea parties – that is exactly what we did for her 6th birthday party.  We invited 10 girls for the Sunday before Christmas so I had expected a small turnout but 8 of them came!!!  They made time for Cate in their busy holiday schedules and it meant the world to me.  I wish I’d know back in those early days that I had lots of parties like this one to look forward, instead of worrying myself envisioning a life of solitude for Cate.  The truth is that Cate really is just a little girl who happens to have DS, and she is more alike than different.
The table was set with tea cups, mini cupcakes, and finger sandwiches.

The girls played with Cate's toys as we waited for the group to arrive.

Cate drinking her herbal cherry tea.

All the girls at the table in the hats they decorated.

It took a litte help to break the tea pot pinata!

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