Jake got to play with his cousins all day today:)
The project around our house these days is building a garage. My husband and a bunch of his friends have been outside every waking minute for the past couple of weekends, and today was no exception. And since my brother-in-law came over to help with garage, my sister came over with her kids and we just hung out all day.
Then she went home with three of her kids, and her twin 4-year old boys got to stay at Auntie’s house for a sleepover! (…and for those of you who don’t know us personally, yes, you read that right…my sister has 5 beautiful boys and is an amazing mother!) It was a little chaotic during the day, and I forgot to take pics…but here are some cute ones of the twins with Jake, and with their Auntie:)
Because my sister and I are so close, both in proximity as well as in depth of relationship, Jake’s cousins are a huge part of his life, and we spend an exorbitant amount of time together:) The day after Jake was born, when we found out that he was diagnosed with Down syndrome, one of the many thoughts that went through my head was “how am I going to tell his cousins?”, followed closely by “will his cousins love him?”. I am ashamed to admit that I had those thoughts, but hey, that’s my dose of honesty and vulnerability for the day.
Thankfully, the second question was the easiest one to answer. His cousins love him so much! They are so gentle with him, they always wanted to hold him as a baby, and now they always want to play with him. He can crawl over them, take their toys, grab their hair, poke at their eyes, stick his fingers in their mouths, and blow raspberries and spit all over their faces, and they just take it, laugh, and keep playing with him. Their love for Jake is honestly unique; I can’t explain it.
The first question is still a work in progress, as only one of Jake’s cousins actually knows. I had the opportunity to talk to Elijah, my oldest nephew (he just turned 8) a few months ago while the two of us were driving somewhere together. It was a great conversation, and it dispelled all of my fears of not knowing what to say.
Elijah asked me why Jake’s eyes looked like his own (as a point of context, my sister is married to someone of Korean descent, so her children have very almond-shaped eyes). I then got to explain that Jake has something called Down syndrome, which is when every single cell in Jake’s body has something extra in it that most people’s cells don’t have. I said that this makes Jake really special and unique. I said that this extra “stuff” causes some differences in Jake, like his eyes looking a little different than mine, or his ears being extra small. I said that this extra “stuff” will cause Jake to always need a little extra time and a little extra help to learn how to do things. I said that Jake was super lucky to have a cousin as great as Elijah to teach him. Elijah took in all the information, said “cool”, and that was the end of that!
We’ve never had a follow-up conversation, but a couple of weeks ago at school, Elijah had to give a presentation in class about things that were really important in his life, and he made sure to include a picture of Jake and Cole, his cousins. In his presentation, he told his class that what makes Jake special is that he has Down syndrome.
I think Elijah will grow up to be a huge advocate for Jake. And that makes me happy…