Sunday, June 8, 2008

Band of Brothers

The very first thing Diego does when he gets up in the morning..every single morning... bright eyed and bouncing down the hall, is to come searching for Joaquin who is usually in bed with us by this time and he covers him with kisses and hugs. Mateo usually comes stumbling in after, the sleep still in his eyes as he is more of an "ease into the day" type of guy, and looks for the baby so he can greet him as well. "Mama's Little Baby" he calls him, even though I try to convince him he's still my baby too. "No" he always says, "I'm the brother!" These two big boys of mine can't get enough of the baby and literally have their hands all over him.

I wonder what it must be like to be Joaquin and to have all these faces each and every morning to look at, these adoring faces that can't get enough of his smile and his cooing and squeals. He is so lucky to have two older brothers.

We've started to try to explain to Diego that his brother has Down syndrome. Diego is 5 and going to Kindergarten in the Fall. This is a hard thing to explain to a child but so far Diego is unfazed by it. It's just another piece of information about his brother that doesn't change a thing about the way he feels about him. His response so far has been "Ok mom!", as if I just told him that his brother has brown hair and blue eyes. I love this age of innocence and acceptance. I know that this won't always be the case and that there may be prejudices that he and Mateo will be exposed to in everyday life. But I also know that both boys will grow up with a strong sense of compassion that is often hard to teach children but will come from having a brother with Down syndrome. I've spoken to friends who have siblings with special needs and they all say without a doubt that it has made them a better human being. A few days after Joaquin's diagnosis, Santiago, Hector's nephew who is 13, called to see how we were doing. He was very sweet and in a shy way tried to tell Hector that everything will be OK. He said that if given the choice of his brother Andres being "normal" or with DS, he would choose Andres with DS every time.

My hope is that this band of brothers stays strong. I know Hector and I have a big job ahead of us, a huge responsibility to teach them all how to get along, love each other and respect each others differences. I don't know what the future holds for Joaquin but then again I don't know what the future holds for Diego or Mateo. I have to remind myself when I get worried about the road ahead of us that just because we know that Joaquin has an extra chromosome doesn't mean we know the rest of his life story or that his life will be somewhat predictable because of it. My hope is that all three boys have every opportunity to reach their dreams, their aspirations and their full potential which will undoubtedly lead to their happiness.

In the far distant future, there may come a time when either Diego or Mateo will have to care for Joaquin, when and if we aren't able to, and my dream is that they will want to, not out of obligation but because they love him so dearly as they do now....every single morning.

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