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Thursday, March 21, 2013

So NOT Normal

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, and in honor of this I would like to dedicate this post to all the children who don't fit into the "normal" mold.
Our "normal" Mother/Daughter photo
It has been almost 20 years since I was a scared 17 year old girl who gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Seventeen is pretty young to start raising a child on your own. Seventeen is still a "child" in many ways, and with many life lessons yet to learn. Yet, seventeen is when I became a single mother. Becoming a parent at any age comes with its own set of struggles, but becoming a parent at 17 takes parenting struggles to a whole new level. On a Monday morning following Easter Sunday, at 11:29 am, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, chubby faced, "normal" baby girl. This is where I cue the record scratch!

Normal? Corinne is anything and everything but "normal." Oh sure, I had dreams of decorating a princess pink bedroom with trunks of "dress up" clothes, play make-up, and curlers... but Corinne... she just wasn't having any of that! Trying to put a dress on that kid would make on-lookers think I was putting her into some sort of torture device! Not that Corinne was a tomboy, because she wasn't that either. That too would have been too "normal" but just in a different category. Corinne... well, she has just always wanted to be free. Free to be who she wanted, and free to do what she wanted. Which also meant that the idea of sitting in a classroom, diligently paying attention to lessons, studying, organizing her thoughts, and doing homework... well that was way too "normal" too.
1st day of school, and ironically not smiling!
Each and every day was a struggle. A struggle to get her to study and pass the next test, a struggle to get her to focus, even a struggle to just get her to turn in her assignments that were already completed. I spent years in and out of teacher conferences, educational planning meetings, counseling sessions... try this method, do this trick, buy this organizer, sign her up for these extra lessons, use this reprimand system, no wait...use this reward system... on and on it went, year after year full of old and new struggles, lots of frustration, and buckets of tears. Why can't my kid just be NORMAL?!!!

The answer was always because she is Corinne.  The girl who came out of the womb with a drawing pencil in her hand. Corinne couldn't sit down and focus on dry lessons because she was too busy staring out the window daydreaming of her next creative adventure. She couldn't focus on fractions because her mind was too focused on building other worlds. Most parents have to baby proof their homes when their children start to crawl. Not me. I never had to move any knick knacks, or rearrange bottom shelves, or put safety clips on cupboards and drawers. I could just give her a coloring book and crayons, and she would be content. Sitting down to do homework was like trying to run up hill against the wind, but put a Harry Potter book in her hand and she couldn't put it down. Trying to get her to complete a school project was like pulling teeth, but put a pair of scissors in her hand and she would give herself, and her friends, a stylish new hairdo. 

 Tell her to write a report and it was like the world was coming to an end, but put a pencil in her 
hand, and she would draw you something truly amazing that far surpassed the art skills for her age... at any age.

Trying to be a single parent to a child who excelled at all things artistic, but continuously struggled day after day with academic school work, was both a blessing, and a curse. Had I known then that there are schools out there for creative children like her, I would have done everything in my power to get her into one. But our struggles have made us both grow, and Corinne is now, and has always been, one really cool kid!
Every parent has struggles. I do not pretend to know how, or even relate to a parent who has struggles that are way different than mine. What I can relate to is getting dirty looks from other parents, and teachers because my child isn't a straight A student, which ultimately means I am somehow failing as a parent. I can relate to being told how to do this or do that to "improve" my child. I can relate to being an outsider as "That young single mother who can't control her child enough to pay attention in class," and I can relate to those who have children who break the "normal" mold, and love their children for the wonderful person they are.
I was 17 and pregnant, and I chose to give my child life. Even if someone came to me at the beginning and said "There is a genetic test we can do to see if your child would be normal in all ways" and I found out then that Corinne would always struggle with school, I would STILL have chosen to give her life! Yes, parenting is hard work, yes, there will be struggles and complications, and yes, your child will most likely be someone much different than what you had planned. But, each and every child is a blessing and deserves the right to live a life full of wondrous surprises, adventures, and lots of love! 90% of children with Down syndrome are aborted. Why? Because many people have a misinformed idea of what it means to be a parent. Most think having a child with Down syndrome is a lot scarier than it really is. And most people think having a "normal" child will be easy.

I will end this post with a quote by an amazing Mother who continues to inspire millions each and every day:

"Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted, and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child, and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortions. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents, and have grown up so full of love and joy!" 
- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Truly Evil Gift

Last night I found myself immersed in an interesting conversation with my daughter, Corinne. The etiquette of giving gifts from an evil prospective...well Disney's version of evil. The question at hand...what type of gift would the evil fairy, Maleficent, have bestowed upon Princess Aurora if she were in fact invited to the christening?
Corinne brought up the point that had Maleficent been invited to Princess Aurora's christening then perhaps she would have felt the need to be in competition with the other fairies to bestow the best gift, and the other fairies would also step up the competition and try to "out give" Maleficent  Given that it is a royal child each attendee would ultimately want to win the attention, and good favor, of the King and Queen by their gift to the princess. Naturally even fairies, both good and bad, would want to be acknowledged for their gifts as well. Which brings up the other point to our conversation...Did the King and Queen ultimately deny their child amazing magical gifts by eliminating the competing factor?

However, we had to keep in mind that as amazing as Maleficent's gift could have been, she is still evil, and therefore the gift could only be amazing and terrible at the same time. What if she was given eternal beauty, but accompanied with perceptual bad breath? Or what if she was given great power of the mind, but every time she got angry she caused a village to burn down? So, did the King and Queen truly deny their daughter the possibility of getting great magical gifts, or save her from consequences of whatever evil would be associated with Maleficent's gift?

Then I began to think...if I were Maleficent, what great and terrible gift would I bestow upon the newborn princess? What gift would be a blessing and curse at the same time? What gift would exhibit how truly terrifying magical powers can be? Then I decided, I would give her the gift to make every man she encounters fall madly in love with her, but the moment she loves a man back he drops dead at her feet. Therefore, she has to gift to get love but never give it back. Now that is evil!

I know this is a completely random and odd post, but I found it quite interesting to ponder the possibilities of such events...but only in a Disney frame of mind.  

If you were Maleficent, what gift would you give?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Magic Words

Have you ever noticed how something as simple as one word can make or break your day? Even getting a customer service phone call at work can lighten my mood if the person on the other line is polite and cheerful. Imagine how many people you interact with each and everyday...do you leave that person knowing they are in a better mood because of you?

We are taught to say "Please" and "Thank You" as children, but somehow most adults forget these simple magic words. When you are at a store and need assistance, on the phone, texting, or even at the drive through window at McDonald's, do you remember to say "please" when you ask for more ketchup, or "thank you" when you get your order? What about when you're at the grocery store? Do you remember to thank your cashier and/or bagger? Two simple ways to brighten someone's day.
It is also an unfortunate condition of human nature to neglect those closest to us. It is remarkable how many time adults forget to say "please" when asking a friend or family member to do something for them. Please take out the garbage. Please put your dishes in the sink. Please pick up your clothes. Could you please bring me a glass of water? Worse yet is how often we forget to thank the ones we love for every day things. Thank you for remembering to do the dishes. Thank you for calling/texting today. Thank you for bringing me coffee. Thank you for cleaning your room. It's the little ways of showing respect and appreciation that make all the difference in the world to other people.

Start to pay attention to how many times a day you say "Please" and "Thank You" and hopefully you will find opportunities to say it more.

How often do you remember to say "Please" and "Thank You"?