Our sweet host child who is still in need of a forever family has been in our home for one week tomorrow, and there’s an elephant in the room that we still haven’t addressed.
The elephant of Down syndrome.
Joy has Down syndrome.
Before she came to our home, we researched Down syndrome, connected with other mamas with kiddos with Down syndrome and asked as many questions as we could about how we could best meet Joy’s needs as a child with Down syndrome.
And then this personality-packed princess arrived in our home … and all our research and expectations and planning flew out the window.
Because Joy isn’t “a Down syndrome kid.” Joy is this incredibly friendly, tender-hearted, opinionated, sweet and thoughtful 7-year-old girl who gives the BEST hugs and kisses and loves photography, dogs and coloring books and who has just MELTED the hearts of these three boys, who find themselves carrying her around the house and brushing her hair.
She just happens to ALSO have Down syndrome.
Before Joy came to our home, I had some preconceived notions about what she might be like, what she might need and the challenges our family might face as we hosted her.
If I can just be honest, I allowed stereotypes to convince me that this month was going to be HARD. That it was going to be CHALLENGING. That I would need to use every reserve of energy and patience I had to truly meet her needs. I expected that this month, my life would be turned upside down. Our family has experience with daily medical needs, but we have no experience with developmental or other special needs. And to advocate for this sweet angel, our family was prayer-armed and ready to do whatever it took to love her well, even if that meant a month of really, really hard days.
But can I tell you a secret?
This week has been a cake walk. It’s been so easy, in fact, that throwing Joy into the mix with three boys has literally added zero more work or stress or challenge to my life. In fact, the only thing it’s ADDED has been sheer JOY. I almost feel guilty that this hasn’t been more of a sacrifice! But this girl — she is SO FUN and SO CALM and SO EASY that hosting her feels more like a sleepover party than any kind of service. (And the kind of sleepover where the girl actually SLEEPS ... because, with 11 straight hours of sleep each night and frequent car naps like THIS one, THIS girl is a sleeping CHAMP!)
As we were walking through a parking lot the other day, Superhero 2, who can always be found holding Joy’s hand, asked me why her condition was called “Down syndrome.”
When I responded, he said, “Why would they call it Down syndrome? Joy is the happiest person I know. They should call it Up syndrome.”
Because there’s nothing down about it.
Friends, expecting me to respond with horror stories and hard times, have been asking me how my life has changed this week with a child with Down syndrome in my home.
And this is what I tell them.
I get more hugs than I have in a lifetime. Every greeting, every meal, every entrance into a room earns me a hug. As a physical touch person, my love tank is overflowing.
I receive more kisses than my husband has given me in a year. (Supersoldier, I promise that YOU can win this record once you’re home more months a year than you're away!)
We all laugh more than we have in months.
We stop to smell the roses.
We look at the world through children’s eyes.
We stop and wonder at the little things that captivate Joy’s heart and attention on a daily basis.
Dogs. Cameras. Trampolines. Red plaid purses. NOT 14 packs of boys just calling her name to be worn.
And, with this girl showering us with love and affection at every turn, we've found ourselves GIVING more love and affection TO EACH OTHER than we have in any other season of our family life.
Her lavish love and affection — it's just contagious. And experiencing it inside our home has made ALL of us better lovers of one another.
From second one, Joy has slept through the night, dressed herself, brushed her own teeth, taken care of all her bathroom needs without a single accident and eaten every morsel of food we have offered with a kiss and a “xie xie.” She colors like a champ, cleans up her toys better than these boys, and she sorts, organizes and stays inside the lines of life like a BOSS.
She is so expressive in her communication that we’ve barely used the Chinese app I downloaded to my phone. She communicates her needs with gestures and facial expressions, and the boys and I have had zero problems understanding what she wants or needs. (And if we don’t get it right the first time, she leads us by the hand, points and kisses us to say “please” and “thank you.”)
And she is so, so bright. She's already learned "hello," "goodbye," "dog" and "Ayi," and she catches on to every routine and daily chore after only one or two times.
Joy has been NOTHING BUT. And our lives with her in it have been nothing but RICHER. FULLER. WAY more fun.
Okay, she did one day pour lentil soup on our 12-year-old beagle as she tried to feed him. And Ranger, as he licked the lentils off his chops, simply became her new best friend. And she did remove her necklace, skirt and bow one day and smile and kiss-kiss as she tossed them on the floor in protest (along with the remnants of my wanna-be-girlmom heart).
Our three boys who DON’T have Down syndrome have done WAY WORSE to that sweet dog … and to the clothes that don’t remain on their body any longer than is absolutely required by public decency laws.
I walked into this experience hoping that we might be able to love on and advocate for an angel who SO DESERVED a family. That we might in some way be able to love her and serve her and, through the love and grace of God, somehow bless her.
What I didn’t realize is that WE would be the ones most blessed.
One week into this experience, we can't find a single thing "down" about Joy's syndrome. Because our family's level of love, compassion and joy has only gone "up" since she's been a part of it.
It turns out that the "burden" that has kept her from being adopted for seven long years is actually the biggest blessing in disguise. <3
#upsyndrome #nothingdownaboutit #changejoysstory