What I Gain from Having a Child with Down Syndrome

I had the privilege of talking with a mother who has received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome with her third child today. I told her about my child with Down syndrome, Penny, and how I used to be afraid and now I have great hope, and I told her that my grief has turned to joy, and I told her of the gift that Penny is in my life and in our family.

At one point, she said, “Yes, everyone says that a child with Down syndrome is a gift and that they teach you to be patient and compassionate.”

“Yes,” I said, “that’s true. But it’s more than that.” I paused, trying to find the words.

And then I remembered what William said to Penny on her birthday. “I really admire the way you don’t get stressed out about time,” he said. And it’s true. Penny likes to be on time, but she doesn’t worry about time. She likes to accomplish things, but she doesn’t insist that she accomplish them immediately. She is willing to practice for years. She doesn’t hold grudges.

I said to this woman on the phone, “It’s not just that by having Penny in my life I have needed to learn how to be more patient or more kind, though that may be true. It’s not just that she has taught me things because there are challenges in having a condition like Down syndrome. When I say she has taught me things I mean that she is actually a role model to me in many ways.

She doesn’t teach me simply by what she requires me to give her. She teaches me by what she gives me. She teaches me by who she is, not just by who she calls me to be.

If you’d like to read more, here is another post about what I’ve learned from my daughter Penny.

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