Sunday, October 5, 2008

Joey knows

I really want our kids to grow up seeing Finn's differences - and Down syndrome . . . and heck, all physical and intellectual differences between people - as no big deal. I've struggled, though, since Finn was born, as to what and how to tell our other kids about his "issues." We told Kevin pretty early on, just because he's older and we figured he would handle the information pretty well - and anyway, he's old enough that he was questioning things. The younger kids, I've not really known how to handle it, but I've known that: (a) I didn't want to make a big production out of telling them because I think that would just make it seem big and scary, and (b) I didn't want to wait too long to tell them because then it almost starts to seem like a secret, and we're a pretty open family.

So last night Joey was talking about how smart Finn is, and I suddenly saw it as an opening for some dialogue. I told him very matter of factly that Finn has something called Down syndrome. He, of course, wanted to know what that was, and I told him that it's something that some people are born with and it can make them look a little different from other people, and sometimes it takes them longer to learn how to do certain things. I've also had these books sitting here waiting for an opportunity:

These books are great. They're geared towards young kids and two of them even have a Q & A section in the back. Joey, who is 6, has just lately become passionate about reading (just like his mama and big brother!), so he really enjoyed reading the books. He's a funny kid . . . sometimes he says these off-the-wall things. He wanted to know how Finn "came down with Down syndrome" and I explained to him that it's not like a cold or a stomach ache, that it's something he was born with and will have his whole life. And it didn't take long for him to start connecting some dots: he said "So that lady who comes to do exercises with Finn . . ." and I said, "The physical therapist? Yeah, she comes to help Finn get strong so he can learn how to do things like sit and crawl when he gets a little bigger."

Anyhow, it was good. He took it very much in stride, and was especially affectionate with Finn afterwards. Finn is so loved by his older siblings! One of these days soon I think I'll read these books to the twins :)


Tricia said...

Wow. This is incredible. What a loving and perceptive big brother. I often wonder how it will be to explain things to Georgia's siblings. It will be a little different since she's the oldest (at least I imagine it will be)...but hmmmm...maybe not.

Tara Marie said...

What a great big brother Joey is....and my heart leaped when I read this post, as I think you are approaching this discussion with your children in the most natural and positive way.

Chrystal said...

What a great conversation. I think you're doing a fantastic job, mama.

You would laugh if you saw how many books I have regarding Ds. I thought I had ordered them all. How did Ben and his secret slip past me?! Sneaky, sneaky Ben.

datri said...

You'll be amazed at how well siblings advocate at a young age.

On my older daughter's 6th birthday, I just treated her and ONE friend to a zoo and then back at our house for cake and ice cream. When my older daughter's friend saw Kayla, my then 3 year old with DS, she said "Your sister's freaking me out, she's 3 but she acts like a baby." But my daughter just shrugged it off with "It's just because she has Down syndrome." and that was it.

She just did the same thing recently when on the bus (she's 7 now) an older kid asked if her sister's brain was missing.

Oh, BTW, I have to say that in both cases the kids' comments weren't meant to be mean, they just didn't understand, and my daughter did a wonderful job in teaching them.

Keep it up, you're doing a great job. Heck, I couldn't even read We'll Paint the Octopus Red to my daughter without crying for a year.

hapagirlhapafamily said...

It's amazing how much our kids pick up! Katie is truly Lillian's best advocate in our family. She has shown such a compassionate side, like Joey. And you're doing a terrific job raising your kids!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post and what a beautiful picture.

T-rex said...

That's so great for Joey, and so touching. Finn has so many fabulous siblings to grow up with, your kids are truly fortunate to have one another (and the great parents they learned it all from!).

Amy said...

We have the same books and shared them with our daughter when she was 5 and our son was 2. After we talked to her she called her grandma and said, "did you know that Joe has Down Syndrome?" Her grandma said, "Yes, he is very special." She said, "He's not special, he just has an extra chromosome." I think you are introducing your son to T21 in a positive way and that it gives us all hope for the future. What a great big brother.