Thank you for joining us for week 3 of my 3-part interview series with Gillian Marchenko about her book Sun Shine Down. I don’t know about you, but I have really enjoyed getting to know Gillian a little bit and hearing her thoughts about life and motherhood.
If you missed the first two weeks in this series, I’ve linked them below for you. You may wish to read those before you continue reading below. 🙂
And now, let’s get started with today’s interview!
About Down Syndrome
1. You parent two children with Down syndrome. Are you at peace with Down syndrome?
Yes, I think so. I don’t see Polly and Evie as kids with Down syndrome. They are simply my kids. That’s not to say that I do get discouraged sometimes about therapy and delays,
and the fact that our family can’t get up and go like others. But I love our children, and am thankful for our lives. Down syndrome plays a role in that.
2. What are the joys of parenting kids with Down syndrome?
Every milestone, no matter how small or big, is celebrated at our house. Polly is full of joy, and Evie’s smile can light up a room. My kids with Down syndrome (and my other two typically developing children) have taught me about kindness, trying hard, slowing down life, and being thankful for what we have. These were all lessons I still needed to learn in my thirties when Polly busted through.
3. What are the struggles of parenting kids with Down syndrome?
Health concerns are always in the back of our minds. Evangeline is nonverbal, and we are concerned we may never get to hear her sweet voice speak sentences. We find ourselves once in a while in the middle of something called chronic sorrow. Something comes up with our kids and we realize they do, indeed, have Down syndrome, and therefore life will be harder for all of us. Part of a life of special needs includes grief. It is a disturbing, but necessary realization. I don’t love my kids less. But do we struggle sometimes? Yes.
4. You speak to groups about bridging the gap between families affected by special needs and others. Why? What is your message?
I speak about bridging the gap between families affected by special needs and others because to put it bluntly, there is still often times a gap. My message is that communication and education is key. I talk about opening up conversations with friends and family who have kids with special needs, and about teaching our kids how to be good friends to individuals with special needs. I guess I just share my experience, and let people know that I have my foot in both camps of parenting … The gap doesn’t have to be an abyss.
5. October is Down syndrome Awareness month. Does your family do anything special to raise awareness?
Yes! I usually go to Polly’s class and read a book about Down syndrome and send home a hand out explaining Down syndrome in kids’ terms and encouraging parents to talk about it over dinner. In the last two years, Polly and Evie’s sisters Elaina and Zoya have took it upon themselves to create and present similar presentations to their classes. Warms a Mama’s heart!
Where to find Sun Shine Down
Have you read the book yet? I hope you have! If not, and you wish to, please click on the image below and you will be taken over to Amazon, where you can make your purchase immediately. Happy reading!
Gillian, thank you for the opportunity to read your story. I feel a real connection with you because you are real and relatable within the pages of your book about the joys, as well as the heartaches, that come along with raising special needs children. I truly look forward to reading more from you.
Gillian Marchenko is an experienced writer and speaker who lives in Chicago with her husband Sergei and four daughters. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Chicago Parent, Thriving Family, Gifted for Leadership, Literary Mama, Today’s Christian Woman, Charlottesville Family, EFCA Today, and the Tri-City Record.