An eight-year-old birthday party with Down syndrome
My daughter Polly invited all the girls from her second grade class to our house Saturday for her birthday. The theme was a cooking party. I ordered paper chef hats and aprons for everyone to use and then take home as party favors. The menu included homemade personal pizzas, a fruit caterpillar, a snack butterfly, and cupcakes (thank you Pinterest. I hate you but I love you).
The guests arrived, and in twos and threes, dove right in to pizza making. My husband Sergei manned the pizza station, donned in his own personal apron, “Mr. Good Looking is Cooking.” The rest of the girls gathered at the party table, constructing caterpillars out of grapes and a cherry tomato for the head. A few of them fought over who would sit next to the birthday star. Girls will be girls.
After eating they moved on to presents. Girls oohed and aahed as Polly ripped open present after present with delight. “Thank you for the Strawberry Shortcake car, Libby.” Even in the midst of her excitement, Polly made sure to thank each person for her gift.
After presents, Polly’s friends, all whom most people would deem ‘typical’ piled onto my girl for a group hug. They laughed, and played before popping in a favorite video to watch while eating cupcakes.
Now, I want to be careful.
Perhaps a brand new mother has stumbled upon this post. If that’s you, I want you to know that Down syndrome isn’t always easy. I’m not going to say that life with Down syndrome is just like any other life. It waxes and wanes and some kids have more struggles than others. Sometimes a child’s disability doesn’t warrant what one would call a ‘typical eight-year-old party.’
But I think there is a large population of people who think life with Down syndrome equals a death sentence. To you I say, I’m not hurt you think that. I felt the tug of those words after Polly’s birth. My feet filled with lead. I didn’t think we’d ever have any happy birthdays at all. But now, eight years into our journey, there are more ‘normal’ experiences in our life, in Polly’s life, than not.
Her life is an education I desperately needed. I’m thankful.
Polly has shown me that there are differences in all of us. Some differences are good. And some are difficult.
She’s also shown me that this is what an eight-year-old party looks like… Down syndrome or not.