Many people had approached me when they first heard the news that we were blessed with a child with Down syndrome. “You know…”, they would say, avoiding eye contact with me, “I hope you’re making the right decision… a child with Down syndrome can really ruin a family.”
Now, looking at my beautiful child, Shea, all I can do is nod with a bright smile and effusive glow. Indeed, it can change a family… and how!
Many people believe that such a child is only sent to an exceptionally wonderful family, entrusted by Hashem with this special task. I, however, attest that we were and still remain an ordinary family, truly blessed with an extraordinary gift.
Shea’la lights up our home. He spreads so much positivity and cheerfulness and each one of his wisecracks make us laugh so hard. In turn, we smother him with kisses. I watched how my children, like a garden of fragrant flowers, emerged and unfolded into gorgeous blooms, as if they waited for my special boy to bring out their inner beautiful buds. It definitely changed our family, and all the more so, each child individually.
My young boys are delighted with their playmate who never disappoints them and plays fairly, always being on everyone’s happy and good side. Should anyone be reduced to tears, Shea’la will swoop in and come to the rescue, shushing and embracing the child. This always results in the crier stopping abruptly, bursting into peals of laughter and hugging closely with Shea’la. He is a source of joy and happiness and there is never a dull moment with him around. In fact, he made my socially withdrawn children open up more, become more socially adept and engaging.
It’s difficult to remain shy and inconspicuous when you’re led by a little musketeer with a big bright smile and equally charismatic and bright personality. My children all fight over him, to take him out, take him to the park or shopping. When Shea’la is away for a Shabbos, there is something so big lacking that nothing and no one else can fill the gap, other than his actual presence. With Shea’la, life is fun, exciting and entertaining!
My children are the ones who support any friend that learns that they too were recently gifted with a sibling with Down syndrome. Everybody’s natural and immediate reaction is shock and sorrow. But when our kids are there to support them, to show and paint a whole different picture of sunshine and happiness, those friends relax and even become excited. A child with Down syndrome is like a built-in, permanent cheerleader, cheering you on every step and spreading smiles.
Shea’la is an intelligent boy, not quite five years of age yet, with a funny line perpetually on his lips, picking up on all the little nuances and ways of our family. For example, many times we don’t allow him access to devices or the DVD player. Yet whenever he does get his hands on any of them, he comes running to me, and sheepishly exclaims, “Oy… what a crisis! Shea’la found the iPod!” He refers to anything seemingly big as a crisis and has us laughing each time he uses this adult-word!
Before Shea’la was born, Hashem gifted me with a garden of sunflowers, and life had its regular ebb and flow. And now? Each sunflower grew tall, stretched out and is looking up brightly towards the sunshine.
Shea’la is our most precious flower, a gem of a boy, and yes, he is blessed with Down syndrome.