Twenty-one reasons I love my niece

March 21 is a day that held no meaning to me until nearly four years ago when my niece was born. Despite being the first newborn that I held, kissed and got to spoil, Everleigh was the first baby I met with Down syndrome. On this day, I choose to celebrate my niece; the amazing, tiny human who has taught me so much in the short four years I’ve gotten to know her.

1. She is little but she is fierce. When you see Ev, it’s apparent she’s much smaller than other kids her age, but her Baby Evpersonality is just as big (if not bigger) than her friends’.

2. Everleigh has a love for Barney that’s in close competition with my childhood love of the purple dinosaur himself.

3. She can speak two languages – English and American Sign Language. If she wants it, she’s going to find a way to ask for it. From goldfish crackers, to music, to another episode of her favourite show. The girl knows what she likes and how to get it!

4. She works hard. I know it’s hard to imagine a four-year-old working hard, but this girl is all about showcasing her skills and abilities. Developmental delays associated with Down syndrome don’t mean milestones will never be met.

5. She’s hard headed. As much as she works hard, if Everleigh doesn’t want to do something she won’t. I admire that about her. I never have the guts to say no when I don’t want to do something, but this threenager (soon to be four) knows what she likes and what she doesn’t.

6.  While some people may see developmental delays as a negative aspect of Down syndrome, it just gave everyone in Ev’s life more time to enjoy every stage of her life. There was more time for cuddling, and carrying her around, and enjoying the stages you’re sad kids grow out of.

7. Her eyes win over every person she sets them on. They’re so beautiful and bright, and her happiness shines through them.

8. Everleigh understands the power of Timbits and completely supports my belief that the chocolate ones are the best (even if they make her ridiculously hyper), and you can never stop at just one!

9. The most contagious laugh in the world comes out of this little body. You hear it and you instantly feel yourself laughing, as well. ev1

10. Her dance moves are envied by everyone who sees them. I hope she never loses the “dance like nobody’s watching” attitude she has.

11.  She enjoys colouring as much as she enjoys eating crayons. You’ve got to love a girl who goes her own way.

12. She tries her best to wrap her little arms around you and her hugs warm you up more than any amount of blankets ever could.

13. Ev is a sass master. When everyone says children with Down syndrome are happy all the time, they’ve clearly never seen Everleigh when she’s being told to step back from the TV or being told she can’t have something. The girl can cross her arms better than any teenager I’ve met.

14. The girl could enter a death grip competition. Everleigh’s gotten a hold of my hair on more than one occasion and getting her to let go of it took more effort than getting drunk college girls to bed.

15. She learns the words to songs and sings them in the sweetest voice, often with actions. Mr. Knickerbopper and Ram Sam Sam are best enjoyed when sung by my sweet girl.

16. She loves and loves and loves. Everleigh became a big sister in February and she’s gentle and caring for baby Noah.

17. Everleigh makes you slow down and appreciate the little things. Sure, you could open her presents for her on her birthday because you don’t have time for her to master the fine motor skills it takes to tear open a gift. Or, you could give her a little bit of extra time and watch her face light up with joy as she exclaims, “Oh wow!” over every gift she opens. ev5

18.  Every time you’re having a rough day, Everleigh can turn that around. There’s a video on my phone of her saying I love you that I watch whenever I’m sad or discouraged to remind myself there’s a little girl who will be there no matter what.

19. When Everleigh was little, she use tor rip her socks off in the car. And it sounds silly, but as a fellow sock hater, I always admired that little bit of spunk she had.

20. She has a face that’s impossible to say no to. Seriously, ask any of her family members.

21. Because she’s down right perfect, and has been since the day that I first held her.

And while a part of Everleigh will always be that she has Down syndrome, there are so many more parts to her than a little extra chromosome 21. Happy World Down Syndrome Day my bean, I love you to the mountains and back.

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