Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 12:53 PM
Jordan’s freshman year, homecoming was a magical night for him—although he went to the dance alone. As vans dropped off giggling girls and limos delivered young couples, I drove my son alone to the front of the school. I watched him walk slowly behind the gaggles of fellow teenagers, somehow feeling that he was left out. He was fine; I was not.
He seemed to be oblivious to how unusual it was to go to such a group event alone. Of course, one of the lessons I continually need to learn is that he is never alone. First, Jordan enjoys his own companionship better than anyone I know. Secondly, as he made his plans known, his school friends promised to look for him at homecoming. And he knew they would. And so Jordan’s freshman homecoming, while nerve-wracking for mom, was a success for him.
Now it was sophomore year, and I felt so much more knowledgeable about the whole high school scene. Jordan’s older brother, Harper, had also changed schools and was now at the same high school as Jordan. With homecoming rapidly approaching, Harper has a date. He also has many new friends, one of whom truly appreciates the relationship between Harper and Jordan. She has no date for homecoming and Harper discreetly plants the idea that Jordan may invite her.
One night, I came home to excited boys with a recently completed project. Jordan wanted to ask someone to homecoming, so Harper helped him with his invitation. It was written on lined notebook paper, then folded into a swan—origami style. It sat on the kitchen counter along with a scrap of paper with a locker number on it and a roll of tape. This was the “complete little brother invite kit” according to Harper. He had called his friend, verified her availability, and obtained her locker number so Jordan could proceed with a very cool invitation.
The wonderful girl accepted and Jordan had a date for homecoming. More importantly, he was to go with a group of six kids. As the day approached, Harper took Jordan to rent a tux jacket (apparently the whole tux thing is too contrived; just rent one piece and wear your own clothes); had it fitted and arranged to pick it up. Together they ordered corsages and Harper taught Jordan about the wrist corsage (no need to poke a girl with pins!) On homecoming night, Harper’s prep time was devoted to Jordan and his new experience. Harper adjusted Jordan’s collar, tied his tie and straightened his jacket. He made sure he didn’t wear too much cologne. He saw him off and was truly proud of the figure he cut as he walked toward his new group of friends.
As I see and hear of teens and their self absorption, I cannot help but wonder how I got so lucky. Harper truly radiates goodness. Does having a brother with a challenge make him see the world more gently? When I speak to parent groups about Down syndrome, I often refer to the lack of “placebo kids”; in other words, we only have one Jordan so each program, therapy or lesson we try on him has no counterpart. As families, we have no control group. Likewise, we have no control group for siblings. As we watch our children with Down syndrome blossom into the wonderful adults they are sure to become, we must also celebrate the siblings who help them get there. And we can’t help but wonder if the siblings are impacted, positively or negatively, by having a brother or a sister with a disability. For now, I celebrate the calm and serenity it gives me. In a world of uncertainty and frequent challenges, I know that Jordan will always have Harper and indeed, Harper will always have Jordan. This is a gift.