Two Precious Peas in a Pod
Johanna is now 2-1/2 and Teddy is 15 months. When we go out, they hold hands in their double stroller and we're often asked if they are twins. They both have their father's smile -- a wide grin that crinkles their eyes -- as well as my pout. They have large ears (a gift from my family) and a gap between their first and second toes, which, doctors point out on my daughter, as a clinical feature of Down syndrome, even though my husband has it as well. When he cries, she brings him things to console him: her Elmo puppet, her favorite Dr. Seuss book. There are plenty of tussles, usually over toys or vegetable puffs, or my attention, but there are many moments of quiet coexistence when Teddy shows Johanna something that fascinates him and she pats him fondly on the head.
Every evening, after bathtime and bedtime stories, I place Teddy into his crib. "Night night, Teddy," Johanna says, pressing her face against the side . She slides her fingers through the slats and he chortles in delight. I wish I could keep them in this bubble of innocence, a world without divisive labels such as "typical" child or "special needs," where it doesn't matter that my daughter has an extra chromosome in every cell in her body. I long to postpone that time when Teddy will become aware of his sister's differences and struggle with twinges of resentment or shame. But right now, it's just the two of them, holding onto each other and smiling. Looking at them, I don't see a child with a disability and a child without one. I just see my two precious children, Teddy and Johanna.
Originally published in the November 2010 issue of Parents magazine.