What about the girls? That was one of the first thoughts that entered my head when I found out Gigi had Down syndrome. How badly is this going to affect her sisters? I had no idea but was certain it would be bad.
It turns out that I had no idea that they would argue about who gets to share a room with her. I had no idea that they would hang on her every word and think everything she says is hilarious and adorable. I would never have imagined that they would be so proud to have a sister that is different that it would lead them to celebrate and spread awareness about those differences. I had no idea that they would hug and kiss her daily and tell her they love her. I had no idea that they would get so much joy out of their little sister.
One day I was having a conversation with someone about who would take care of Gigi after my husband and I die. The oldest sibling overhearing the conversation, without hesitation said, “Gigi can live with me”. The younger sibling, who wasn’t there at the time, I am certain would have jumped in and said, “not fair!”
A study conducted by Gigi’s doctor and renowned expert on Down syndrome, Dr. Brian Skotko, surveyed siblings of individuals with Down syndrome. Results show that “Among those brothers and sisters who responded…the vast majority of siblings, of all ages, expressed love and pride for their siblings with DS…As siblings matured, particularly as they entered high school and beyond, they began to identify themselves as better people because of their brother or sister with DS. They felt they had learned important life lessons regardless of the degree to which their sibling had challenges. Many felt their perspective on life was enhanced, with a deeper appreciation for human variation.”
Gigi is making progress in leaps and bounds verbally and I attribute that to her frequent interaction with her sisters. They have been a source of learning for her since the day she came home from the hospital. They don’t realize it but they’ve been excellent teachers and Gigi has benefited. In turn, they’ve learned patience and understanding of differences in abilities; Gigi has been a teacher as well. All things that I never dreamed of that day I found out she had Down syndrome.