Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Ooo" on Down Syndrome and Sibling Relationships {a guest post}

"Ooo." I have no idea how he came up with it but that's what Marty calls his younger brother, Silas. He used to sign "baby" for Silas when he was an infant, bringing me "baby's" soothie when he cried, sometimes even a blanket. He'd pat "baby's" head gently and not so gently, maybe giving it a good rub before trying to poke him in the eye. Then Silas became big enough to sit and play with Marty. That's when "Ooo" emerged.
I didn't really know what it would look like for Marty to be a big brother. I don't know many kids with Down syndrome who are the oldest sibling; many families we know their 'surprise' is the baby of the family or somewhere in between. Marty was our firstborn. What was this going to look like? I tried hard to imagine Marty and Silas' relationship, but my image has since paled in comparison to the beautiful reality of brotherhood I see today.
1st time meeting "Ooo"
"Hold the Baby"
On the cold November morning Silas was born, I eagerly anticipated Marty's arrival to the hospital to meet his brother for the first time. My husband ushered him in and held him up to see Silas resting in his grandma's arms. Months beforehand we primed him, letting him carry around one of my old cabbage patch dolls, signed "baby" to him, showed him how to be gentle with it hoping it would get him used to the idea of a little person about to enter his life. Now with the newborn bundled before him, would he be able to make the connection? The room erupted in cheers after Marty peeked at Silas and signed "baby." He got it!

Marty soon wanted to play "Hold the Baby." I would put Silas in his lap for a few seconds, he would look down and laugh at him, then sign "all-done" and I would pick him up again. Over and over and over; "Hold the Baby" never got old.
Laundry fun
Perhaps Marty had an epiphany when Silas started becoming more interactive with him thinking "There is more to this kid than just crying, eating and sleeping--and funner games to be played!" Games like "Fetch" (a favorite) though it involves Marty taking toys (sometimes large enough to make a crash) from Silas and tossing it in the kitchen or down the hall. Silas happily plays along though and speedily crawls after whatever's been thrown for him to fetch. The two of them also play "peek-a-boo" around corners and take turns opening/closing doors for the other to open. There is the occasional "Sit on Brother" where I nearly panic at the sight of Marty sprawled across Si, then calm down and laugh with them as I realize that the squeals coming from the younger brother are those of delight and not anguish. (Oh, how boys 'play'!) When these funner games between the two of them had begun to take shape, suddenly Marty stopped calling Silas "baby" and he started calling him "Ooo."
Rise and shine!
The boys share a room together in our small apartment and every morning Marty climbs out of his toddler bed and into "Ooo's" crib to wake him--which my husband and I don't always appreciate, especially predawn, but it's become a happy morning ritual for the two of them and it's hard to stay upset. Usually we're clued-in to their wake-up routine by giggles crackling through the baby monitor. When I go in to get them they are jumping up and down in the crib like caged kangaroos ready to pounce at the morning. (Who needs coffee with this greeting?) Sometimes I end up getting Si out of bed before Marty wakes up. When that does happen, "Ooo" is the first person Marty asks for upon waking--making sure to check the crib and see if he's there before we leave the room.
Later in our morning, Silas and I see big brother Marty off to preschool and pick him up in the afternoon. In the backseat I am serenaded both ways by giggles and squeals as they make faces at each other. And when Marty comes down the hall to meet us at the end of his day, I get a quick "hello" and he peeks in the stroller to give smiles to his "Ooo"--who flashes all 3 cheeky dimples at the sight of him.
We share everything, even breakfast!
"Ooo." We don't know what it means. We call Silas by his name or call him "brother" around Marty, and neither of those words sounds like 'Ooo' to us. I like to think it is a term of endearment that began out of a relationship between two brothers who share more than just an existence together, but life together in precious moments like the ones mentioned above. In those moments I shake my head and wonder what in the world makes anyone believe that Silas is a sibling who 'suffers' or is somehow at a loss because he has a sibling with Down syndrome. Marty and Silas are brothers first and foremost; an unbreakable tie. Anyone who considers it 'suffering' to share in their brothers laughs, tears and triumphs all because of an extra chromosome are settling for far less than one of God's greatest gifts. That's the saddest thing I can imagine.
Silas adores Marty! He has to be wherever his big brother is--even if that is in the bathroom being potty trained (he's been peed on more than once but hasn't learned his lesson yet...). They are the the best of friends and teach each other so much. Marty taught him how to throw a ball and Silas taught him how to crawl without the 'pirate' effect (Marty used to prop one of his legs up and out when he crawled, pushing off with it). They balance each other so well: Silas is sugar--always smiling, always laughing and easy-going--and Marty is spice--a bit of sass and mischief with the right amount of sweet. God knew what gifts they needed in each other and paired them this way. I can't imagine them being apart.~*
About the author: Amber writes reflections and sometimes hysterical commentaries on the beautiful life that God has given her from her perspective as a mom, a wife, and a woman: She is a SAHM to two boys--Marty (blessed with Down syndrome) and Silas (blessed with a happy disposition) with another little sibling on the way! Her hands might be full, but so is her heart and that's what matters! She's been married 8 years to her fun-loving husband, Martin, who makes the journey that much sweeter! God is her solid rock and foundation whom without I would simply implode. Visit Amber's blog: Outnumbering the Sand

You can also find more posts about sibling relationships and down syndrome HERE.


  1. Yes, the sibling dynamic is unique. I love to see the relationship that my two girls have. And then there are the Sister brother relationships. Erin, 7, and Eoin, almost 5, are best friends and Bridgie (2 1/2, Ds) and Eoin can be each other's nemesis. But both adore Erin. I am always very interested in birth order and their personalities too!

  2. Such a sweet piece on these two sweet little boys! Thanks for sharing, Amber!


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