Anymore it is starting to feel like we have twins in this house. They are practically the same size with matching temperaments. They play together, sing and dance together, watch Dora the Explorer together, they fight and make up two minutes later and I am convinced that in the middle of the night they meet up to conspire against their mom and dad. They have mastered knowing exactly what strings to pull, and with what smile, in order to sway us to see their side of things. They are sisters and this is just the beginning.
While I was pregnant with Kendal, I envisioned their relationship to be like so; but there was a darker point in that nine months where I began to realize the part of their sisterhood that in time, I would not be able to avoid nor prevent. My doctor knows me well, so I knew she was able to read my fears a few months into the pregnancy. “Are you worried about this baby passing Tessa [in development]? You are, aren’t you?” (My husband would disagree that I am totally transparent, but I am and my doctor knows it.) She was right. It was true, and I was torn between pity and shame and a whole mess of other pregnant emotions . It was also inevitable. At some point I knew that Tessa’s baby sister–still growing in my belly–would catch her and eventually pass by her, doing things ahead of Tessa without slowing down. To be painfully forthright, I couldn’t bare the thought of it happening because it isn’t at all what I knew or what I was used to. It just made me uncomfortable and upset, bringing up the parts of Down syndrome I had long tucked away in my “For Later” file in the back of my busy brain.
During that pregnancy I got a taste of what it might be like. I remember Tessa’s younger cousin crawling, pulling himself up and eventually taking his first big, beautiful steps long before she did. Despite my happiness for him, I remember each new and glorious milestone of his crushing me and desperately wanting all the same for Tessa. Little by little I watched him catch and pass her by.
On the surface I know that comparing one child’s development to another is rather catty and meaningless; but to a parent of a child with special needs it is so much more than a comparison. Because we want so much to see our children achieve the same natural milestones as their peers. We want that same kind of “natural.” We want them to succeed. We want them to do the things that maybe we were told they may never do. So we push them hard and support them every way we know how, and we wait–sometimes what seems like forever–for our kids to strike gold. And when they do, Lord look out because there will be celebrations! Sometimes, though, it just does not happen. I know that beauty runs deep–in this case far past the typical ease of development for which many parents take for granted. Rightfully so. I would be the same way except I have learned to behold her long-awaited milestones for their beauty. Thankfully so.
I know what makes Tessa unique and extraordinary. I also know her weaknesses and I witness her setbacks. There is nothing about Tessa that I would change; however, if I could make her route through life a little easier I absolutely would. But I just can’t. Along that route would be the part where Kendal’s development surpasses her older sister’s–the part I once paid more mind to. As close as Kendal and Tessa are in age, size and development right at this moment, I find myself worrying less.
I love watching them play together–their little minds quickly creating play scenarios and acting them out together. Sometimes I just sit and watch without them noticing; and if I am lucky, I can get away with it for quite a while. Tessa dutifully instructing Kendal on how to bathe her baby dolls and make them dinner. When the babies are left to dry, Kendal helps Tessa put her puzzle pieces together or assists her up the stairs. Then back down the stairs they come to a stack of books where Tessa points out the colors and Kendal repeats them. Back and forth they go without a care in the world, without knowing that they are each other’s greatest asset.
At the start of each day Kendal blows Tessa a kiss good-bye from the car as I take her in to daycare. Before they go to bed at night, they give each other a kiss and say “I lub you!” I have learned to love them as individuals and how to love them together. What they don’t know is what they are they are teaching me in the process of being their mama. I am thankful they were set to each other…and to us.
When the time comes (and it is near) where Kendal will jump ahead of Tessa in development I will again quietly grieve that part of Down syndrome that I wish could be different–without a doubt. I know the sting will fade as their relationships carries on just the way it is now. The little savory sisterhood I once envisioned for my girls is now our reality, and now I get to dream up what the next future will look like for them as sisters. All I know is that it will be filled fiercely with love and tons of laughter.
Defining love. Precisely defining what it means to be sisters.