Strength for the Climb

My blog is a personal journey of the blessings I have been entrusted with and the strength I have been given to make the climb. I invite you to follow along as I write about faith, family, and Down syndrome.

The Glance

There I was, the day after Thanksgiving, in 2014.  A 2 ½ year old and a 6 month old in tow.  Downtown Minneapolis.  Knowing that Chris would be gone coaching in Wisconsin that weekend, I decided to venture out to kick off the solo parenting weekend.  While the stores were buzzing with Black Friday shoppers, we headed into the city to take in the Macy’s 8th floor Christmas display, Santa’s Workshop.

Six months into this new journey of having a child with Down syndrome, the feeling was still there.  Whether running into someone I hadn’t seen in awhile, or catching someone’s extra long look…the thought always came to mind…do I sneak in the information that my youngest has Down syndrome, or do I allow the person or ‘spectator’ to figure out on their own what makes my son so unique?  Along with the tension of the inner dialog I played in my mind that I shouldn't feel like I needed to even say anything, because most importantly, he should be viewed as our Jack, our child.  But again, I was new on this journey and had no idea that these early thoughts were a part of the growing (learning) process.  I remember asking Tracy when Jack was a few weeks old, “Do you ever feel like you just need to shout it out and then run in the opposite direction so you don’t have to hear their reaction?” That was at a time when all I could think about was Down syndrome.  When Jack was so little, he slept ALL the time and as I ventured out amongst the public and no one could tell my precious sleeping baby had Down syndrome, it was a sense of relief not having the thought I needed to ‘explain’ my son to others.  At six months, his almond eyes were definitely evident, and other characteristics (which I might add made him extra cute) were obvious to others, including his low muscle tone which affected his ability to keep his tongue in his mouth (even after hours and hours of facial exercises), and I knew that people could tell my son had Down syndrome.

With my handsome little guy in the front of the sit-n-stand stroller, it was on my mind, as I was still learning from other people the variety of reactions when seeing my childAnd at that point, I still cared.  It quickly becomes evident those that have been blessed by a person with Down syndrome, disability, or other unique life experience.  They see the person, not the diagnosis.  They see the person, not the wheelchair.  They see the person, not the disability.  They see the person, not the addiction.  Because we know each person has life, worth, and value and they are ultimately not defined by their diagnosis or circumstance.

We took a quick spin through Santa’s Workshop and after a hot right and scoring a short line to see the man in the red suit, before you knew it, the boys were on Santa’s lap.  He let this mama take a few extra pictures as he snuggled my littlest in tight and let my oldest tell him all the things he wanted for Christmas.  As I snapped picture after picture, I felt like the time had stopped.  This Santa wasn’t in a hurry to get all the little ones through the line, he held my boys tight, and I felt like he winked at me like he knew something…just like Kris Kringle winks at the little girl in Miracle on 34th Street.  I’m so thankful to have soaked up that moment. 

But that wasn’t the end.  We couldn’t leave downtown Minneapolis without a stop at our favorite candy store, Candyland.  The smell of the popcorn from the elevator draws you in and too many dollars later, with Chicago Mix in hand, you are on your way. 

As I was pushing the caravan around and out the entrance, I looked up and saw a group of 3 kids (about 12-14 years old) walking towards us.  Two girls and a boy.  I noticed the boy had Down syndrome, figured those were his sisters.  Then a few steps behind them was their mom.  And as we both tried to hurry along behind our kids she looked down and smiled at my boys.  As we passed each other, two steps in the opposite direction, we both turned and looked back at each other and I will never forget the glance and smile she gave me.  It said all of these things without saying a word...from one mother to another...a few years down the path from me...

You are going to be okay. 

Your life will be much more beautiful than you ever thought on this journey… 

You will not take little things for granted…

You’re much stronger than you ever thought…

You will have moments of being pushed, stretched, challenged, and broken and it will all be worth it because your child is worth it…

You will see the beauty in the process instead of focusing on the outcome… 

You will experience true joy.  Not just superficial happiness, but real deep joy

Your good days will far outweigh the bad days… 

You will meet some amazing people on this journey including new families, therapists, teachers, and more... 

Your child will remind you of your purpose… 

Your child will remind you that every life has value… 

Your life will be changed for the better

And there I was going up the elevator with my boys, tears streaming down my face, encouraged by a glance from a complete stranger.  Encouraged by a woman that didn’t say anything to me but assured me with her smile that life is good.  There’s nothing better than having another person come alongside you on whatever journey you find yourself on and let you know they’ve been there and they know the path.  We are better together.  Although each journey unique, we each have an opportunity to speak life (or death) into someone by our actions and words.  How many times in our daily lives, do we really see people?  Who are we missing that could be encouraged by our glance?

I Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.