What my daughter gave me on her 5th birthday

Kate is turning five next week.

When she was born, I read that the most important brain growth happens in the first five years. This news gave me a strong sense of urgency. Kate’s 5th birthday seemed to be waving at me in the distance challenging me to do more — to be more. More therapy, more educational activities, more early intervention. What was enough?

Luckily, it quickly occurred to me: she is enough.

She is enough with her bright blue eyes and smile as wide as the sea. She is enough with her love for her siblings and her gentle strokes of my hair. She is enough with her hilarious personality, giant cackle and strong opinions. She is enough — as she is — and my job is to help her be the best her.

I am so grateful to live in an age where there are boundless resources for a family with a child with Down syndrome. The wonderful therapists and experts we have met on this half-decade journey have enriched our lives and provided encouragement. They have taught us techniques and focused our efforts. They have given us tools for developing the brain and the body, all of which I have incredible gratitude for.

But do you know what I’ve realized about these first five years? What grows exponentially faster than the brain is the heart.

But you see, the heart doesn’t measure growth by a checklist — how soon first steps are wobbled or when first sentences are said. No, the heart measures growth in a more subtle way, a stretching of character, a stirring of the soul, a change in life perspective.

And as I’ve celebrated Kate’s accomplishments, scooping her up with joyful tears when she clearly asked for a banana, giving a standing ovation when she toddled her first steps — what I’ve celebrated most is the growth of her heart.

Kate doesn’t sit at the breakfast table until she’s given everyone a good morning hug. Her favorite music sends her into a spin, arms spread wide like a prima ballerina. She tenderly tucks her 1-year-old sister in bed, kissing her forehead and patting her back. She delights in the happiness of people around her and giggles with empathy when someone else gets tickled. She may not be able to do everything all 5-year-olds can do, but oh man, when it comes to the good stuff, she’s ahead of the curve.

And I, like the Grinch, whose heart grew three sizes in just one day, have found myself to have had quite a growth-spurt since Kate was born as well.

It’s the nature of motherhood, of course, to be stretched (physically, emotionally, spiritually), but Kate’s big heart has changed mine. She has given me the gift of perspective.

For in her five years, she has accomplished more than many much older — simply in how well she loves and how effortlessly she inspires others to do the same.


  1. Delores Townsend

    You voice my thoughts so well! My Lori caused bubbles of joy in my heart, especially when she would loudly exclaim “I did it”! God is so great!

  2. Dot Golio

    Beautiful story…..have never dealt with Down Syndrome, will be more aware of anyone with it….maybe will have the opportunity to meet someone and know how loving they are…..we have had a little fellow who suffers from Autism and to see his progress just by coming and using the pool here just amazes me….will pray for all these children. thank you for sharing.

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