Lessons from my son

Though I spend a lot of time and energy helping my children learn about the world, they teach me more with very little effort.  Next week my oldest son will turn eight.  I love all my children’s birthdays.  I love throwing parties and celebrating the milestones they have reached each year.  I love the opportunity to be thankful for one more year of health with each child.  I love remembering the day the child was born and how far we have come together since.

My oldest son when he was a newborn

When I think back to the day my first son was born, there are many memories.  Some of the best ones were overshadowed by words spoken to me by a specialist in the early hours of the morning, “He has some features that resemble a syndrome.”  At that point, my mind went black, my ears started to ring and my heart broke.  The diagnosis was confirmed a few days later.  My baby had Trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome.

I had a lot to learn quickly.  There were medical tests and therapies and appointments with a variety of doctors.  While I made room for all these new responsibilities in my life, I got to know my son.  He was adorable and healthy and very much like the newborn I had dreamed about.  I learned from him even in those early days.  He behaved as if he came into this world exactly how he was meant to be.  He knew that I was his mom and that was all that mattered to him.  I soon learned to make it all that mattered to me too.

So much has changed since those first few days after his birth.  Over the years, I continue to learn from him.  I watch him working to feed himself and I strive to be more patient.  I watch him instantly forgive when he is wronged and I want to be a kinder person .   I watch him struggle for breath and I learn to savor the moments when he is breathing easily.  I watch him run and I learn to be thankful for every step he takes and every step I take.  I watch him love, unconditionally, all the people in his life and I learn to be more loving.

The list of things I have learned from my two typically developing children would be just as long and unique to each of them.  The most important thing my oldest son has taught me is that he, like his siblings, is a unique individual first.  He is not the diagnosis that clouded the first hours and days after his birth.  He is a child who has a diagnosis.  He is also a child who hates haircuts and loves movies, a child who is talented at memorizing and not so great at focusing, a child with a sense of humor and a stubborn streak, a child who is learning to read and learning to be less impulsive, a child who loves his siblings fiercely and who giggles uncontrollably when he sees his mom trip or gag or get startled (little bugger).  He is a child who loves eating out and requested restaurant food for his 8th birthday party.

So while I eat my chicken and french fries, I will be thinking about all he has taught me, about how far we have come, about the day he was born.   I will focus on the memories of him, not his medical diagnosis.  I will remember his chubby cheeks, his alert gaze and what it felt like to hold him in my arms for the first time, as he began teaching me what it means to be a mom.

Enjoying the water a few weeks before his eighth birthday

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