3-2-1 . . . .
It's actually 3/21. . . and yes, it's today's date. But it's more than March 21. It's even more than the first day of Spring. Today, March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day.
(And yes, those are pajama pants you see Mark wearing. We were in a hurry to get Caroline to bed!)
I'm sure there are people who are thinking that it's another pathetic excuse for Hallmark to make, distribute, and sell cards. But actually, it's a bit more than that. And I personally think it's a bit more special than that.
As most of you, my faithful readers, know - Caroline has Down syndrome.
Down syndrome is a condition (not a disease) that comes about at conception when there is an extra 21st chromosome. When she was born, based on doctors' observations (some of the markers were very clear) and genetic tests done within hours of her birth - we learned that she has Down syndrome.
That "little something extra" is in every cell of her body. . . . brain cells, skin cells, muscle cells, teeth cells, and I could go on and on. Because that extra 21st chromosome is in every cell, it affects every system of her body. Some systems -- growth, height, weight, joints, skin -- the differences aren't life-threatening, or even noticeable.
Other systems -- respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiac, circulatory, auditory, neurological -- well, those can have more serious implications.
Many of us with children with Down syndrome refer to that extra chromosome as the "happy" or "love" chromosome. . . and most days, that would be right on the money. But Caroline is typical when it comes to behavior issues. . . she's like everyone else.
Every child with Down syndrome does not have heart issues. Caroline did.
Every child with Down syndrome does not have gastrointestinal issues. Caroline did.
Every child with Down syndrome does not have hearing issues. Caroline does not.
But, every child with Down syndrome does have that extra 21st chromosome -- and as you've gotten to know Caroline, or others with Ds, you can see that it does make a difference.
Developmental delay is part of the diagnosis of Down syndrome -- but it doesn't mean she's slow. Developmental delay means that she processes things differently, and in a more purposeful manner than her peers that are what we call "typically developing."
You see - we don't say "normal" around our house when we talk about kids that don't have Down syndrome. Because. . .Caroline is normal. She may not be developing at the same speed or pace that her peers are -- but she's normal.
I'm not going to hop back up on a soap box about the "R" word - -because that's not what today is about. Instead, I'm going to celebrate this child of mine.
She's my joy.
She's my challenge.
She's my Rubix Cube that wears a size 3T pants and a size 5 shirt.
She's my favorite person with whom I color.
She's my "backseat driver" who now knows what red lights are for.
She's my favorite soloist.
She's my daughter.
Today, Caroline - I'm celebrating YOU. I don't know what I did to deserve a blessing like you. I certainly had no idea how much joy you would bring into my life -- but I'm grateful God chose your Daddy and me to be your parents.