In 2013, we had the honor of meeting a little boy named Carter for one of our commercial shoots. And today, in honor of World Down Syndrome Day, his mom Sarah writes this letter to tell him a little about the meaning he’s brought to their family’s life.
When you were born we knew you were the most beautiful baby boy ever! Such little hands and feet, such beautiful sparkling eyes, tiny ears -- we just loved you instantly! That night, when the doctor came into our room and told us you probably had Down syndrome, we nodded and expressed our understanding, putting on a strong front. After the doctor left Mommy started to cry, but not because she was in any way disappointed with you. Instead, she was mourning the loss of the dreams she had for her son that may never come to pass, and in place of these dreams was a new uncertainty and worry. What would you be able to do? Would you walk? Would you talk? Would you laugh? Would you run? Would you read? Would you have friends? Would you drive a car? Would you go to college? Would you have a job? Would you be happy? There were tears for the hardships we knew you’d face, that we couldn’t protect you from. But when the blood tests confirmed the diagnosis a week later, one thing remained the same - our love for you. We sprang into action.
By the time you were a few weeks old, you were getting physical and occupational therapy in our home. We learned that such early intervention services have helped many children with Down syndrome achieve more than was ever thought possible. As you grew, we added speech therapy and taught you sign language because it was difficult for you to speak (nine years later, you still sign “more” even though you learned to say it years ago).
Slowly but surely, you met developmental milestones, only a few months after a typical child would. We got to enjoy each stage of development for a longer period of time, and savor each moment and rejoice in each small accomplishment. We didn't have to race to the finish line but could take a leisurely country drive and enjoy the scenery. You reached for a toy, we cried tears of joy! You sat up on your own, we jumped up and down! You took your first steps, we clapped and cheered! We never took anything for granted.
Through hours of speech therapy, you are more and more able to communicate with others! In 2013, you became the first child with Down syndrome to have a line in a national commercial. You worked so hard with your speech therapist, practicing your line “Someone who loves bubbles!” (about the babysitter you would want) even throwing in the sign for bubbles during the shoot. It was a triumph for you and for the Down syndrome community and was exciting to hear all the praise you received. But in the end, it was Carter being Carter, working hard and finding your own path to success.
Carter, you are in many ways a typical 9-year old with many likes and dislikes you might see in any other boy. You love the Beatles (thanks to Beatles rock band you can sing the words to pretty much any Beatles song), Michael Jackson, and The Greatest American Hero. You like to listen to music, watch TV, dance, and eat French fries and ice cream. You beg for things, get mad and pout when you can't have them, get in fights with your sister, fight over the iPad. You play baseball and you dance and sing on stage in musicals. You swim, go to camp and have favorite movies you want to watch over and over. And you are incredibly personable, loving, and have a great sense of humor. What a character you are!
Carter, we know you have to work ten times as hard as a typical boy to accomplish the same things. We know sometimes you get frustrated and tired. We know it is hard to see your younger sister accomplish things more quickly and more easily and sometimes bypassing you with her skills. It doesn’t seem fair. But don’t be discouraged! Look what you have already accomplished in nine short years. Sure, we still worry about you, as any parent would, but your approach to life, learning, and friendships ensures you will triumph!. You have taught us to slow down, to be patient, to love effortlessly. Our lives would be empty without you. So as we approach World Down Syndrome Day (on March 21st), I want to take a minute and salute you -- and all of our friends in the Down syndrome community. May we continue to change the way the world sees Down syndrome -- and may the possibilities for your life be endless!
We love you, Carter.
Mommy and Daddy