I know it’s a cliché, but it is true—our children grow up quickly and time goes by too fast! Now granted my oldest is only six years old, but the other day as I watched him playing in the backyard, catapulting down the waterslide with the sun on his back and a smile on his face, he was just Cole…my little boy, big brother to three. He was thrilled to have gotten control of the hose and was spraying his brother and neighborhood friend, chasing them around the yard, laughing and enjoying the innocence of youth on a hot summer’s day.
I love the times when I can “forget” about Down syndrome. Deep down I knew that in an hour and a half we were off to therapy, lugging a car-full of kids to a 45 minute session of speech. But for now he was just one of the boys, and it kept me smiling the rest of the day.
Although it has been six years since Cole was born, that challenging beginning will always remain as a difficult memory for us—the pain, the sadness, the loss, the fear. Most of us have a heartfelt story that can bring us back to an exact moment of time that changes our lives forever. I wish new parents after receiving that news could be granted a moment’s glimpse into the future, however, to see all the joy and the positives that Down syndrome can provide. Yes, there’s therapy and more therapy, health issues and IEP’s, meetings and other challenges, but that is certainly out-weighed by the achievements and successes, the smiles and the hugs, and of course the unconditional love that any child will provide. When milestones are reached, granted usually later than other children, the elation and the pride are immeasurable.
As the summer draws to a close, I have mixed feelings about the return to routine. Cole will be off to first grade, spending an entire school day in the care of others! He thrives on pleasing people, though, and he enjoys the academic world. Although his speech is quite delayed, he is reading the same assignments and passed the same curriculum as his kindergarten peers. He is fully included in first grade with an aide by his side and pulled out of the classroom only when needed. I couldn’t be more proud of what he has accomplished already. He has mastered my iPhone, every electronic device and computer in the house, and loves to hike, swim and listen to music. (Cole has been to 21 National Parks already!) He tortures his brothers and baby sister on a daily basis, but what six year old doesn’t?!
I got a phone call this morning from a friend to ask if I had read the newspaper yet. Considering that it was 7:30 in the morning, I have four children six and under, we were trying to get out the door for T-Ball camp, and the newspaper was probably still stuck under the tire of my car, my answer was slightly sarcastic! Turns out, there was a picture of Cole with his challenger baseball team in the sports section! How exciting for a parent!
I realized quickly that the future is unknown for all of our children when they are born. Down syndrome or no Down syndrome, we steer them, guide them, set examples along the way, pick them up if they need it, and love and support them, providing them with a successful mould to build upon. Cole amazes me every day—sometimes for the better and sometimes not! Six years ago, would I have thought all this to be possible? Probably not! But Cole has made it happen, and I am sure he will continue to walk (and run!) down his chosen path, with a grin on his face!