Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What to Expect when You're Not Expecting it....

I ran a mud run two days ago. Yes, I knowingly, and willfully, got muddy. On purpose. Initially, I decided to do this with a good group of girlfriends, all with the idea that we decided to do something, "Not because it is easy, but specifically because it is hard." (Direct, rockin' quote from my friend CJM, who was the inspiration behind this adventure.) I'm down with that. I hadn't fully taken on this goal in my heart, to be honest though. I didn't train like I should and I saw it more as a social outing than a true personal challenge. Come race day, I told myself that I would go with whatever felt right...stay with the group, run off on my own...I wasn't sure. As we approached the starting line and the gun went off, my body went into goal mode. I came here for a reason. I came here for a physical challenge. Although I was with a group of girlfriends, the true challenge was individual. I began to savor the sound of my feet hitting the dirt and focused on my breathing. No ipod to distract me, I heard the sounds of the earth, nature and observed the gloriously beautiful spring day. I stayed with a friend for about a quarter of a mile and then let her pace take her where it was going to for her, and mine for me. It was peaceful. It was painful. It wasn't at all what I expected. I had joked that because I don't like being cold, maybe I would avoid the lake obstacle near the end, or skip the push up section, but as I approached each, I thought to myself, "Well, what did you come here for Jen? You came to do it, so DO IT."

I finished the race and completed all of the obstacles, including the insanely steep, long, uphill mountain trail that has left me nursing my painful shin splints incurred by running down hill. I get it now: The race mentality. There is a definite high from specifically putting yourself into a challenging position and persevering regardless of how difficult it is. Even though I don't consider myself a runner and have never really enjoyed it, I "get it" now.  It was truly an experience I won't forget. I hope my fellow mud runners won't mind this, but I have to post our "After" picture from the race...

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We attended a Birthday Party for Elijah's friend Benjamin last weekend. I'll be honest in saying that I was a little nervous.  I have been 100% relieved of the baby comparison games between Elijah and typically developing kids.  (These are the games that you either play or fight playing from the moment you have a child and realize there are other children in the world the same age.  Did yours crawl earlier? Talk sooner?  Make friends later? You just cannot help it.  Even when you're a down to earth person.)  Books like "What to Expect: The First Year" and "Your Baby's First Year: Week by Week" give us guidelines of what kind of milestones typically developing babies will go through and when.  I used these when Christian was a baby and usually they were a source of panic.  Wait..what?? He's supposed to be starting to take an interest in books at 4 months of age?? Really?? Oh no...I don't think he's doing that yet... Yeah.  This time around, I threw out those books.  I mean literally. I put them in the trash can. (Okay..okay...I might have given them to Goodwill, but I got them OUT of my house.)  However.........when it comes to trying not to compare to other kids with Down syndrome we have a whole other head trip.  Perhaps because of all of the possible problems- both learning or medical or both, I find myself reading into more, as if it is a sign of what the future will hold for Elijah, cognitively.  I have to continually remind myself that whether a child is an early walker or talker (within the typically developing community) doesn't have any bearing on how smart or capable they will be.  Same with late walkers or talkers- it doesn't usually have anything to do with their intelligence.  So why do I get so tied up in knots about what it will all "MEAN" for Elijah?? Probably because of the unknowns. Probably because I have worries about what Elijah will be capable of. What his life will be like. Will he have a job? Get married? Have friends? Be able to read a book?  Will it matter???  The comparison is not about whether someone's kid does something first, it's more that I worry if my kid ever will.

I was put at ease at Benjamin's Birthday Party. There were 4 babies all born within weeks of each other (All near 2 years old), all with Down syndrome, all boys. All different.  Yes, Elijah is on the weaker end (physically) than most of the other boys to some degree.  One boy is practically running. One boy is on the verge of walking.  Benjamin has a decent number of words, lots of signs, and blew out his Birthday candle on command (!!! Tears sprung to my eyes, by the way.  Turns out that it doesn't even have to be my own kid for me to be proud!) I was able to see Elijah's strengths as well as his weaknesses.  You know?...Elijah is kind of funny.  He's super social, loves crowds, loves to laugh and just "goes for it" when it comes to life.  I love that about him.  So, my mind was eased quite a bit last weekend. There isn't really all that much to compare.  Each of these kids is different, and although they are challenged by some of the same obstacles, they will handle it differently and in their own time.  What they do share in common, frankly, gave me a good laugh...us Moms bonded over the fact that there is throwing...a lot of throwing..., hair pulling, and unabashed shouting without warning.  These are not necessarily the traits that I love in Elijah's behavior right now, but actually...they are kind of typical...and if you let them be...kind of funny.  Happy 2nd Birthday, Benny!  I am amazed, yet again, that I learn my most profound lessons from a room full of children with Down syndrome.  See what happens when you're not expecting it??

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End of the party photo- the babies were pretty worn out from all of the partying at this point! :)



In between the concern over Birthday parties and running in the mud, we celebrated a beautiful Easter together as a family. We colored eggs with friends, hid eggs to inspire childhood traditions, celebrated all that we believe at Easter service at church and perhaps the best part: Enjoyed a relaxing time eating dinner and hanging out with family.

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We are so blessed to have my family close and to have them be such a regular part of our lives.  As we were wrapping up on Easter day, I asked my niece, Ciara, to watch Elijah by the staircase while I went to the bathroom.  I called over my shoulder, "Don't worry- he can't get up the stairs, but keep an eye just in case!" I came back from the bathroom, and sure enough, there he still was: at the bottom of the stairs, looking longingly up to the top of the staircase. That's when he began to climb...One knee, one hand, then the other...slowly one stair at a time.  By now, the whole family gathered- keeping one hand close, just in case he launched himself backwards. We hooted and hollered and Elijah took a pause now and again to applaud for himself.  He did it, though. He climbed all the way up the staircase to the very top. By himself. See?? You just never know...You never know what to expect- especially when you're not expecting it...

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2 comments:

Brenda B. said...

Oh I hear you on the comparisons. It can be so hard to not go there! I too remind myself that when someone walks or talks does not define their capabilities. Heck Einstein was a late talker!;)

It is even harder with our little ones though. Wondering if they ever will do "it", and then accepting that them not doing "it" is actually a possibility. I have taken to repeating this quote in my head over and over when I feel myself comparing Gabriella to other little ones with Ds...

"Comparison is the thief of joy." - Theodore Roosevelt

Isn't that the truth!?! Every time I compare I lose the joy of all Gabriella's accomplishments! Elijah and Gabriella are unique and have their own talents. They each have their own part to play in the story of our lives. Much love to you and Happy Early Birthday to Mr. Elijah!

P said...

Our reaction and fears are also profoundly influenced By our cultures definition of success which equates to being clever, rich and happy. The three things are about as mutually exclusive as Possible in reality but we can't grasp that and think if I'm clever I'll get the other too. Not likely I say

But be happy, our kids with DS have the market cornered on that one--and it's our job to spread the love

Try to remove your fear of cognitive ability from your thoughts, many leaders and noble prize (especially peace) winners are not our intellectual powerhouses like Gore. But the results and peace and accomplishments they bring to us are amazing. Let's Strive for Elijah or Christian winning the Noble peace prize--at whatever intelligence capabilities he has honed by whatever age he wins it, maybe that's age ten or forty.

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