When I first learned that my son, Ryan, has Down syndrome there were so many different thoughts going through my head. *Will he be okay?*, *Will he have friends?*, *Will he be included?*, *Will he be happy?*
After we found out that he was otherwise healthy, one of the biggest concerns I had was about the support we’d receive. I have a great group of friends but this is something we had never experienced before so I didn’t know how everyone would handle it, including me. It’s a lot to deal with when you find out your child has special needs; you definitely need your support system to help you through it. Don’t get me wrong, he’s the best thing that has ever happened to me and I wouldn’t change a thing about him, but having friends that love and support us makes it so much easier.
So to my friends (and family)…thank you for:
Loving and including Ryan
One of my biggest fears was that Ryan wouldn’t have meaningful relationships with my friends’ kids because he was different than them. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. My friends are amazing at loving and including Ryan. He is invited to every play date and party and while he is there they make sure he is treated just like everybody else (if not better!) Everybody comes over and makes sure Ryan is doing okay and if he can’t participate in something (because he hasn’t reached the milestone yet) they make sure he has something else that he can do. He loves being around people and it is so fun to see him interact with the kiddos and other adults.
Always asking about him and his development
Along with Ryan’s diagnosis comes weekly therapies (occupational and physical) and extra doctor’s appointments. My friends always seem to remember to ask about how he is doing in them and what he has accomplished during them and it really means a lot. Sometimes I don’t feel like having OT and PT every week. I feel like the house always has to be clean and some days it just really disrupts his schedule. I know he needs it and he is thriving because of it, but it can honestly get really frustrating. When my friends ask how it’s going or cheer because Ryan met a new milestone, though, it really reminds me of my priorities and eases my frustration.
Still sharing your kids’ accomplishments
Another one of my fears was that my friends would feel bad bragging about their kiddos to me. I didn’t want the fact that Ryan was reaching milestones later deter them from telling me all the cool things that their children were doing. Luckily, my friends are very open and let me know when a new milestone has been reached. And just like they celebrate with us when Ryan succeeds, I love to celebrate with them!
Going to fundraisers
One of the most generous ways my friends have found to support us is to donate to the Down Syndrome Guild. Whenever there are events that we invite them to, they show up without question. Our first event was for World Down Syndrome Day last year. I invited everyone on a Monday (when it was on Wednesday) and somehow we had over 30 people show up just to support Ryan. It was so amazing to see and really made us realize how lucky we are to have these people in our life.
Having the difficult conversations
Most of my friends’ kids are under 5 so I’m not sure we have crossed this bridge yet, but it is definitely coming. Eventually (probably sooner rather than later) their kiddos are going to realize that Ryan is different. They’re going to ask why he looks different or why he acts different than other kids his age. I know this isn’t going to be the easiest conversation for them to have and I want to thank them in advance for having it. And I know their kids will be just as supportive and kind as they all have been because they’re all amazing moms (and dads) and are raising amazing kids.
Ryan is one lucky little boy to have you all in his life and I am one lucky woman to have you all as friends.
So…thank you from the bottom of my heart!