Everything seems surreal these days.
People are walking around in masks. Stores are putting limits on toilet paper and canned soup. Temperature checks are standard at the dentist and eye doctor. And my youngest daughter, Willow, is turning 7!
How is this happening? Is this all a dream?
Whether I like it or not, Willow is growing older. I just wish she wouldn’t do it so quickly! In just a few short weeks, Willow, my baby, my smooshy-wooshy cuddle bear, will turn 7 years old!!! Someone please pinch me. Actually, don’t. It’s too risky in the middle of a pandemic.
In honor of Willow’s upcoming birthday, I’d like to share 7 things my youngest child has taught me. I probably could name a billion, but it’s late, I’m tired and my mind is mush because I’ve been trapped inside this house with 3 kids and my husband (who is like a kid) for 6… long… months. Curse you, Coronavirus!
So, here we go. Seven things Willow has taught me.
#1) A diagnosis does not define you.
The day I delivered Willow, my husband and I were also delivered a diagnosis. Down syndrome. The book we came home from the hospital with made us fearful for Willow’s future. So, I tossed it in a box and stuck it in the basement. We’re letting Willow write her own story. The first few chapters are amazing, by-the-way.
#2) Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Nothing about this journey has been comfortable. Since Willow’s arrival, my husband and I have had to learn about chromosomes, heart defects, sleep apnea, IEP’s and sign language. We’ve confronted ignorance, discrimination and even hate. It’s uncomfortable living in a society that looks down on our daughter. But the discomfort doesn’t scare us. We’re right where we want to be, with our arms around our daughter.
#3) Kidz Bop is awesome.
Willow LOVES Kidz Bop. She could listen to those talented tykes all day long. And I’m beginning to understand why! For Reelz, people. Those Kidz Bop kids know how to have some good, clean fun! PS – if you don’t know what Kidz Bop is, ask Alexa.
#4) Normal doesn’t exist.
I don’t think many people would describe Willow as “normal.” But, I also don’t think many people could define “normal.” Seriously. We’re all unique! “Normal” is a man-made term. I believe in God. An abnormal, loving, creative, artistic and amazing God. And we’re ALL His children! Celebrate your differences.
#5) Ice cream makes everything better.
Willow asks for ice cream every chance she gets. She likes straight up vanilla. In a bowl, not a cone. And when she eats it, her face is a glimpse of heaven. I can’t say the same for my face when I eat ice cream, but my love is just as strong. Ice cream is what my husband and I chose to eat after seeing our daughter for the first time after heart surgery. It’s what I eat after IEP meetings and it’s what I eat during a pandemic. It’s also why I don’t want this lockdown to end. The thought of wearing something other than sweats is scary.
#6) Be like Poppy Troll.
Anybody who’s watched Trolls, knows Poppy loves to sing and dance and hug. So does Willow. She’s not always on tune, her beat can be a little off and her hugs, a little tight, but Willow sings, dances and hugs with all her heart. It’s hard not to want to emulate that. Willow’s joy is just so infectious. In fact, as a young adult, I never was one for singing, dancing or hugging. As a middle-aged mother, I like to get down, sing loud and squeeze the cheese out of people. That’s all thanks to Willow. “Hug Time!”
#7) Lead with love.
I hate the stereotype that people with Down syndrome are always happy. It simple is not true. That being said, I think people with an extra 21st chromosome are extra good at loving. Willow can make almost anyone smile. She’s especially good as sensing someone’s foul mood or sour spirit and cheering them up. Her love is admirable, inspiring and humbling to witness….
Looking at the above list fills me with such emotion. I’m the mom. I’m the one who’s supposed to be doing the teaching. Yet, she’s the one constantly schooling me! It’s been a humbling 7 years, to put it simply. I don’t know that I’d change a thing, though.
I am blessed.
Happy Birthday, Willow Faith. You are a gift to this family. May you feel celebrated and may your special day be filled with your own gifts, giggles and a gazillion hugs.