She Doesn’t Know

CasssmilesI was driving. My four-year-old, Jayce, was buckled into his booster behind me. “Mommy,” he said. “Why doesn’t Cassie know how to tie? I tie stuff all the time.”

He does.  Lengths of “rope” (scarves) are among his most valuable treasures.  Should you ever find yourself in my house you’d better beware; you could happen upon a booby trap at any turn.

“She just hasn’t learned yet,” I answer.

“Well then how come I’ve learned already and she’s bigger than me?”

“We all learn at a different pace, buddy.  She’ll learn when she needs to know how to tie.”

This is the best answer I can give him.  The truth.

When Cassidy was born I grieved for a long, long time.  I grieved the perfect package I’d been expecting.  My two oldest daughters were around to see the process.  They were around to hear two words delivered in explanation practically all the day long.  Down syndrome.  Those two words cast so heavy a shadow over our door.

In the years since there have been far fewer explanations.  By the time Jayce was born there was very little need to explain anymore.  In fact, I don’t know for sure if Jayce has ever even heard the words ‘Down syndrome’ in relation to his sister.

Here’s the thing:  Even Cassidy doesn’t know she has Down syndrome.  If I asked her what it meant she’d shrug her shoulders and ask what we’re having for dinner.

I’ve never explained Down syndrome to her because–to date–there’s been no need.  She is who she is, just ask Jayce.  He’d tell you that she is Cassidy and she is eleven and she is his best friend.  Down syndrome does not define her.  The condition affects her, but I fear the words would limit her.

If ever there comes a day when Cassidy comes to me and asks what makes her different than everybody else, here is what I will tell her:

You are different because your smile can light up a room.  You are different because whereas other kids pass by that student in a wheelchair, you stop and give her knuckle knocks every single morning.  You are different because you wake up the second the sun rises.  And because you let the dog lick your mouth.  Ew.  You’re different because you change your favorite color each week but your favorite “food” has always been (and likely always will be) ice cream.  You’re different because you say what you mean and you mean what you say.  You’re different because it’s impossible to embarrass you.  You’re different because you habitually close doors and shut cabinets and lower toilet lids. You’re different because you love birthdays more than any other day of the year.  You are different because you forgive so very wholly.  You’re different because you have three twenty-first chromosomes to my two.  You’re different because God only made one you.  You’re fearfully and wonderfully made.  Don’t you forget it.

It would be the best answer I could give her.  The truth.

21 thoughts on “She Doesn’t Know”

  1. Wow! I wish I would have said something like this to Jess. She asked and we said you have Aspergers just like you have blue eyes and brown hair. It makes you who you are with no excuse to hold back. Ps I second Jo-Lynne sentiment!

  2. You give words meaning like no one else I know. She is for sure your beautiful girl and she is a blessing in every way. Give her a huge hug from Ms. Garrison tonight:)

  3. Oh my. You made me cry this morning. I can’t even find the words to say what I want to say. ‘You are a wonderful mom, you have a special family, and I just love all of you’ sums it up. Not as eloquently as it feels in my heart, but you get the gist.

  4. Absolutely inspirational. You are so lucky to have each other. It’s our differences that make us unique. And Cassie’s smile is positively illuminating!

  5. love! We’ve only been around Cas a short time and the Vargas boys think she is awesome, as do I! She’s also known as Jayce’s girl. =)

  6. I would never claim to know how you feel because I’ve never had a child with Down Syndrome but I can claim to know what it’s like being a mom and that was a beautiful post you read. You’re a great mom with lots of love.

  7. This was lovely Darcie.

    Sometimes we have this tendency to put our children in to nice little categories… And then we can’t really see everything about them, because sometimes all of their beautiful little qualities don’t fit into those categories. I think especially when we are learning about our children, and what makes them different, there is this need to do so, because we don’t know what else to do. We are angry, we are terrified, we are sad, we are clueless about what life is going to be like. When we are done with all that, and we begin living again, we experience a whole lotta joy. And the need for those categories kind of settles.

    I don’t think my kids know that their brother is different, either, with his hearing aids. I mean they *know,* but he is just Henry to them. He is a pain in the rear end, he is loud, his jokes are bad, his laugh is hilarious, he is kind and generous and he is just a normal little (or big) brother. I like it this way.

    You are such a good mother. They are going to grow up to be such good, compassionate, wonderful people. :)

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