World Down Syndrome day is March 21st, and just so happens to be a day after my little sister was born. For those unfamiliar with Down Syndrome, it is a genetic disorder caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. It causes a number of developmental delays including speech delays and can lead to a higher chance of developing certain medical conditions. My little sister was born on March 20, 2009, two days after my 18th birthday. Eleven years later, I think I owe her a letter!
My sweet Imani, I remember when mommy told me she was pregnant. My entire life I grew up an only child and all I wanted was a little sister or brother to play with, hang out with, and be the "cool" big sister! The joy that I felt when I found out that that dream was coming true...and then I remember the pain and confusion I felt when mommy told me that you would have Down Syndrome...
I was 17 and I'd never personally known anyone with Down's. I immediately started looking into what it was, what it would mean, and selfishly, I started to feel sadness that I would never get to experience what being a big sister is really like, that you wouldn't get to do all of the things with me, that I'd hope we do. And then you were born and you changed my whole world.
You tried to come into the world hand first, and I knew you would give us a run for our money, since then! You immediately became my best friend and we did all of those things that I wanted to do together...and more!
You became my right-hand. You would hang out in my room for hours and hours! Then I got my license and a car and we were really on the go! Hitting up Starbucks to get strawberry smoothies, and stopping to get french fries, because there was about a year where you would only want to eat french fries. 😅 Going shopping and dancing to music at red lights. I saw your love for music, early on. I share that same love so it is something we bonded over.
Then you went from a baby to a toddler, and that's when I started to notice that you didn't hit all the milestones that other children your age are expected to hit. I will admit that it was frustrating for me sometimes but my frustration wasn't with you. It was once again, with what I "wanted" for you, what I had imagined for you, because I know it was frustrating for you too...
I wanted you to be able to communicate with me and tell me things that you wanted and I had a really hard time with not being able to do that, but you always smiled through it, and that always made me smile. Plus, it also came with some great insiders because we had our own little language that no one else knew #SisterTingz.
The older you got, the more worried I became, because this world is cruel, children are cruel, and some adults are cruel. I never want you to be taken advantage of, bullied, or hurt in anyway. But you won't have to worry about that because you have a team of riders by your side and a big sister who will kick some ass, if she has to!
You just turned 11, and wow! Because we are 17 years a part, watching you grow up has been like watching my own child grow up-it’s happened way too fast. I was picking you up just yesterday and now you could probably pick me up-just a little, if you really tried. You were obsessed with Elmo, and now you know all the cool dance moves before me! You were just playing dress up, and now you actually dress yourself....
You taught me what pure, unconditional love is.
You are THE most genuine person I know. You are caring and you deeply love the people around you, and other people, in general. If someone hasn’t had the opportunity to know someone with Down Syndrome, they wouldn’t understand. There is something so loving about your nature, something so amazing, that I love interacting with every person I encounter who has that one extra chromosome. So much so, that I have to catch myself sometimes, because I realize I can't just walk up to random children with Down's and start hugging them, but I know they'll want to hug me back! It's a genuine loving nature that is something that I’ve never seen from people without Down's- if you know, you know.
You see only the good things in life, when all of us tend to focus on the negative, and I hope I can help you continue to do that.
I promise to always take care of you, I promise you can always call me when you need me (and I'll always answer). I promise to love you for all of your differences while encouraging you to be a "typical" 11 year old- like how are you even allowed to have TikTok, I couldn't have a Myspace at 16- but I digress. And while I know that you won't be able to read this and see all of the love that I put into it, I promise to show you that love and for you to never have to question it.
Your Big Sister