For once, this post is not real-estate related in any way, shape, or form! Since we have finished the birthday season in the Keenan household (all three of our kids have their birthdays within a 3 week span!!) I thought I would take a few observations from my life as a parent and lay them out here, for those of you who ask me all the time, “how do you do it?”
Over the last 5+ years of having a baby with Down Syndrome in our family, we have learned quite a few things! About Down Syndrome, of course, but also about human nature, parenting, probability & statistics, and faith. Here is my top 10 list for those of you who are interested:
1. People say stupid things. Period. This includes physicians. If you are unable to forgive and forget, you will be miserable. And lonely. I guess this can apply to all situations in life, not just parenting a differently-abled child!
2. The word “RETARD” takes on a whole new (very ugly) meaning. It should only be used when talking about the slow growth of seeds perhaps… (“Those sunflower seeds seem to have had their growth retarded for some reason”…) You should do whatever is in your power to eliminate that word from your vocabulary, and encourage your kids to do the same. It’s offensive. And intellectually backwards. And small-minded. And hurtful. And discriminating. And harsh. And over-used. And…. well, you get the picture.
3. “Different” shouldn’t mean something “bad” or something “good”…. it just means that something is not the “same” as something else. Our family embraces “different” and it works out for us. It gives us a greater appreciation for things that might go unnoticed by many. It also helps us to be more compassionate, and it REALLY assists with the, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” mentality! Imagine a world where everyone was the same… NO THANKS.
4. For those 80%+ folks in the world who choose to terminate a pregnancy based upon a prenatal diagnosis of having a Down Syndrome baby on board, YOU MISSED OUT!
5. Some folks are luckier than others! We get that… we feel as if we are the luckiest humans!! Our little Myles is so healthy and so high functioning. He is the darling of the neighborhood and the scamp of the cul-de-sac all at the same time. He can brighten your day or drive you to distraction,exactly like his siblings before him did. We know not everyone is as lucky as we are. We have met parents whose children arrive with an extra chromosome and plenty of other worries as well. We are eternally thankful that we have been blessed with this tiny boy!
6. If you have a baby when you are 40, you should expect to be WORN OUT…. all the time.
7. People will laugh at your kid! You should laugh loudest, and first, so that they know it’s okay!! Laughter is still the best medicine. Surround yourself with the people you trust to carry you through your life, the people you know who will laugh along with you. Without the core group of friends that we have had for many, many years, we would not have made it. That is the honest truth. Those are the people who lift us up, who celebrate with us, and who listen to us when the days are long and complicated. They are the Godparents, the Grandparents, the aunts, the namesakes and the keepers of the gates. The fiercest protectors and the loyal compadres. Our lifelines.
8. Prepare to be delighted by the milestones along the way. I don’t know why the expectations for these kids are not higher, because certainly they can (and do!) achieve. My husband and I decided early on, when I was pregnant with Myles, that we were not going to waste precious time worrying about what he would NOT be able to do… We decided to invest our energy into giving him every opportunity we could to have a great life, and to celebrate his accomplishments accordingly. Myles can work an Ipad, turn on Dora on the television, put on his shoes, make a smoothie almost entirely by himself, and open every door in our home and throughout our community and run like hell once he opens it! He has mastered the art of doing hopscotch with the neighborhood kids, and he lives to see us toss a Frisbee into the tree! Don’t even try to butter his bagel at breakfast or you will hear some feedback immediately!
9. Don’t let someone hold your kid back because there is a diagnosis on his “file”….. period. We expect our kids to work hard and be accountable like everyone else. If there is someone on your child’s team(doctor, educator, neighbor…) who does not have those same expectations, set them straight and get them on board. Pave the way.
10. We love extra chromosomes!! What were we so scared of ? We have been blessed beyond belief by all three of our kids. Not one of them is like the other two, and we love that. IT’S DIFFERENT!!!
That’s it from the pulpit today~I’m better at writing about real estate than I am at writing about Down Syndrome. Obviously. Enjoy your day today!