I love summer.
Unfortunately here in Minnesota, summer can feel short, like a flash of sunshine before the darkness of winter. I’m sure some of you are thinking I forgot about spring and autumn. If that’s the case, I’m guessing you’ve never been to Minnesota before. Here, they both kind of blend into winter. It’s as if autumn is the “pre” and spring is the “post.” Now you know why I love summer. Sadly, summers aren’t always sunny when you’re raising a child with special needs.
My youngest, Willow, has Down syndrome. Since her birth in 2013, our summers have been full of trips to the doctor, therapy sessions and unexpected challenges. That’s not to say we haven’t had fun. Our family of five has camped, gone swimming and visited many fun places. Just not as many or as frequently as we had hoped.
But that’s ok…
We all know what is important. We also know that when it comes to Willow, time, patience and persistence almost always pay off. And this summer, we hit the jackpot.
Willow is healthy, the healthiest she’s ever been! She’s also strong, allowing us to take the summer off from therapy. And the challenges we’ve faced in the past aren’t as plentiful. In fact, the biggest challenge facing us this summer, is how to fit it all in!
We’re swimming, camping, kayaking, picnicking, parade watching and playing at the park.
We’re staying up late, missing naps and racking up miles in our van.
We’re living and loving life, especially Willow.
Even if the sun isn’t shining, Willow is. Her smile is a constant this summer. Her beautiful eyes, full of life.
As for my eyes? They’re on Willow. Her joy is mine.
I am soaking up her sunshine. I am loving her laugh. I am running off of her energy. And, I am celebrating her victories.
For the first time ever, Willow enjoyed a trip to the zoo. She conquered her fears and enjoyed every animal. Even the loud ones!
Speaking of loud, Willow finally figured out that parades can be fun! In the past, they were a shock to the senses. Every siren brought shakes, every light brought tears. This year, Willow’s screams were of excitement. The only tears came weeks after when her candy bucket was empty.
The biggest celebration came on the Fourth of July. While most were celebrating our nation’s independence, I was celebrating my daughter’s bravery. Willow conquered her fear of fireworks and finally turned her eyes to the sky.
The loudest boom that night didn’t come from the finale. It was my heart bursting. My season was made in that moment.
Like a summer storm, I realize things could develop and change quickly. The clouds may return someday. After all, raising a child with special needs is anything but predictable.
That’s why I’m riding this rainbow, not fretting about the forecast, and soaking up every bit of sunshine reflected through the almond eyes of my daughter…