Blessings in disguise

Sure I’m only four years into parenting a child with Down syndrome, but I’ve learned a few things along the way.  Today, with a happy, healthy child who is thriving in a *typical* Montessori classroom, I occasionally wonder why I felt so scared in the beginning.  There is no doubt that having Charlie – a child who yes, has Down syndrome – has expanded my world, and my heart.

Occasionally I fear my words fail to explain the journey that we have been on. How do you explain to the world what a blessing your child is? The joy he has brought to this life? Quite possibly it isn’t important. Or necessary.  But I’m compelled to try.

I’ve also come to realize that Charlie has had a great impact on those around us.  In almost four years, my precious boy has impacted the lives of more people than some could hope to reach in a lifetime.

I’ve heard many stories of family and friends who now approach life differently simply because of our tow-headed son and I’ve long wanted to bring them together in one place.  So this week I put out an all-call to some very special people in our lives asking them to write out their thoughts about Charlie.

It has been a blessing to read each story as it comes it.  To be reminded once again about all the beauty, joy and love one little boy has brought to our corner of the world.  Thank you, you know who you are. 

From Nana:

I have Charlie to thank, for bursting his Nana’s bubble.  I haven’t been the same since the day he was born!  Who knew I even existed in this bubble?  Not me.  Bless his heart, from the moment I saw him in our daughter’s arms, I changed.   He made me grow and enter a whole new world that I somehow had avoided my entire life. I had never known a person with Down Syndrome, nor even someone with real disabilities. This is something I admit with true regret. I love our Charlie!  He has taught me about the value of every person, about real love, determination, perseverance, and so much more!  What I believed initially to be a tragedy, quickly became a blessing!  I thank the Lord for all three of my beautiful grandsons, but it is Charlie who has been the greatest teacher to his Nana!

From Aunt Corey:

It’s hard to write just about Charlie and not about my other nephews.  I adore each of their distinct personalities, but my assignment is to write about Charlie.

I love Charlie.  He is goofy and serious.  He is easy-going and has strong opinions.  He is a great kid.  Charlie gives the best hugs, fully committing every time.  You get arms, a head on your shoulder, and that hug goes on and on.  I love those hugs, and they are all the more special because he doesn’t always choose to give me one.  I get rebuffed about half the time I put my arms out and ask, and that’s okay – he’s usually busy with something else.  I know that when he gives me one of his fabulous hugs that it is completely sincere and full of love.  This morning, when he saw me in the hallway at school, he initiated a hug.  That brightens my whole day.

I’m looking forward to a lifetime of watching Charlie grow and develop and learn.  I’m looking forward to my changing relationship with him as he ages, and watching the relationship with his cousins change and grow over time.  I’m so glad to have Charlie in our lives.  We are lucky!

I gave a lot of thought to your question about how Charlie has changed the way I look at disabilities, but I’m not convinced that he has.  What has changed is the way I look professionally as a social worker at the way parents interact with the systems that are designed to serve families.  This has primarily come from talking to you about your frustrations and the things you appreciate and from reading your blog, Libby.  I think your willingness to share has enriched my perspective about the barriers that exist, the things that really make a difference to families, and the strategies that are most effective in supporting families to lead lives that they find fulfilling.  I know that has made me a better professor and a more compassionate professional.  Thank you!

************************

For the rest of the month I’m going to continue publishing these stories – these gifts – as an encouragement, to look for blessings in the most unexpected places.

{Umm…I know that Nana intentionally tries to avoid the camera, but after a quick scan of my iphoto I realized that this just isn’t going to work…far warning to all, I’m going to start being much more intentional about taking pictures of my children with all their loved ones…}

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