One of the most important things to share during Down Syndrome Awareness Month

I had forgotten about that music box.

The green and white polka-dot one with “Kate” inscribed in a silver plate on the top. When you open it, a tiny ballerina dressed in pink pops up and pirouettes to Beethoven’s, Fur Elise.

The 5-year-old pulled it down from the top of the dresser while he helped put his little sisters to bed last night. “This will calm them down before bed,” he said confidently as big brothers do.

Kate ran over immediately to the music box as he presented it to my curious girls upon the carpet. Her eyes widened, her legs crossed, her hands folded as she waited patiently to see what was inside.

And then, I remembered.

I remembered when we had received that box as a gift shortly after Kate was born.

It was such a beautiful, typical gift for a little girl — but my little girl was not typical. And in those first few days when I didn’t know much about Down syndrome, I held the box in my hand and wondered if she would appreciate it like other girls would.

Would she enjoy the music? The dancing ballerina?

Would she ever want to dress up in tutus one day and pirouette herself? Would she ever cradle the box in her hands and gaze dreamily at the tiny dancer? Or if she weren’t the tutu type, would she have other interests that excite her? Who would she be? What would she do?

And then, last night. There she was.

Upon the beige carpet in her jammies and blonde pigtails with her little sister at her side, enthralled by the tiny dancing beauty. Her grin wide, she told us to hush as she listened to Beethoven’s delicate score with incredible joy. She is as she has always been — just one of the kids — gathered around a treasure.

She patiently took turns holding the box with her sister — gently telling her not to touch the little knickknacks that we had hidden inside. She swayed back and forth and looked at me just to see if I was enjoying it as much as she was.

This moment, like so many moments, is just a reminder that much of the sadness I felt those first days after Kate was born was based on unfounded fears. I grieved the little things that I thought I had lost — when in reality, our family has gained all of that and more.

We still have the tutus and the giggles and the dancing.

We still have the silliness and the sass and the spunk.

But we also have a little something extra. Something that, like a tiny dancer in an ordinary box, brings a special magic to our lives.

I think, perhaps, this is one of the most important things to share with the world during Down Syndrome Awareness Month: the little things. The little stories of relationships and love and joy that become the most important stuff in life.

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.


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