In this bold, beautiful, all-knowing, all-encompassing, ever-changing and loving universe, we are presented with options to move ourselves to new levels of consciousness. All of our lives are opportunities to love, move through fear, to push ourselves through preconceptions, prejudices, learn who we really are, and be that person.
We have choices: who we choose to partner with, what we do with pain, how we forgive or the ways in which we apply the moments of our life.
And we have the givens, the aspects in our lives that we have little choice in, but which profoundly affect us and offer the biggest opportunities for personal learning and growth. Our parents are one: those to whom we were born.
Our children are another: those to whom we have brought forth into the world.
My daughter was born with Down syndrome, and the accounts that I read while pregnant and expecting her usually offered me elements to be “grateful” for, or silver linings. Those elements were not things that excited me, rather I was filled with dread over what I felt I had to look forward to in the “slowing down,” or “learning to go slow.”
I felt that a bad situation was being made the best of. That no-one could truly feel that way, or truly be grateful for these life lessons they were claiming to learn by dint of having a child with Down syndrome.
The “bad situation” that I was thinking of was having a child with Down syndrome.
Even with my background in disability advocacy and disability pride, the disability hierarchy within me was strong, and Down syndrome was at the bottom of the totem.
My daughter is now 10 years old, and I have been learning a lot along the way, from here, through her, by her, because of her.
I can only write that I actually thought that at one point because I realize now how horrifically wrong it is.
I have not learned anything about all things that people say they learn from their child with Down syndrome.
None of that, “going slower” or admiring their courage or strength or whatever. Most of the times, those stories always leave me mystified, because why does being hospitalized show courage? What else is the child supposed to do? No, none of that has been my experience.
Rather, what I’ve really seen in this walk with my daughter through this unfolding of our lives is not so much what I see HER experience to be – that is something only she really knows – but how she has shaped mine.
I see her qualities. The gifts the she brings with her presence. I see her challenges and how they challenge me. In all of these, the gifts and challenges and everything that lies in between them, I see how they reflect my own gifts and challenges.
My Daughter is the Daughter that I Need
My daughter is the daughter that I need.
I have realized this clearly, keenly over the past 10 years. Her specific qualities, unique to herself, are what help me grow and move forward as a person. The challenges she presents to me are also what helps me grow. The more that I lean in and listen to my own truth and understand my deepest goals in my life, the more I see how she so perfectly helps me reach each and every one of them.
For example, I want to be a good mom. I want to be responsible, I want to save money for my kids, I want to be the kind of mom that plays too – I want them to remember me when I’m gone as someone who would dive into the water, even when the water was cold. Those are goals of mine.
My daughter will come to me when I’m working and she’ll ask to go swimming. In the middle of something, I’ll say, “okay, let’s go at 3,” and then go back to work. She’ll come back at 3 and say, “it’s 3, Mommy, let’s go swimming.”
By listening to her and pushing myself out of my chair and away from the siren call of work, I am opening that space in which she is helping me to reach my goal. On that day and in that moment, no way would I have stood up and called my kids to go swimming!
Another goal of mine is to be healthy and strong. My daughter helps me achieve that because of her own love of the consumption for things that are not healthy. I literally could not keep things in the house that I did not want her to eat, because she would find a way to get to them! So, I’m left with carrot sticks and celery. I’m also exaggerating, but still: we have all benefitted from this.
My list can go on but I am leery of fleshing it all out – the thing about these types of lists are that they are so very specific to the people writing them. What I am learning from my daughter, through my daughter, what about her propels me as a person – those are all relative to who SHE is, and who I am. She and I are puzzle pieces that fit together, and you have your own puzzle piece that fits with your own child.
Our Children Are Who We Need
This is not Down syndrome or disability specific.
It can be, but it’s not only about disability: this is just about children, full stop. All the things our children offer us are elements that I think reflect our own learning needs and goals. The Universe – God – knows our hearts and what will help and heal us, knows what ingredients should be added to the recipe of our life that will make it the most flavorful.
Whether or not we look inside and learn to understand ourselves, our deeper goals in our life, and see how perfectly our children connect with us, well, that’s our choice. But God knows us better than we know ourselves, and in each choice and chance that unfolds in our lives, we are presented with new ways to blossom.
Meriah Nichols is a career counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one gifted 2E). Deaf, with C-PTSD and TBI, she’s also a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.