We’ve only just reached the end of 2012’s first month, but already the new year has brought a number of big milestones in the Love household.
My ‘baby’ Charlie had his debut at daycare. Accompanied by his big brother for the first few sessions (until Sam graduated to Pre-Prep), Charlie didn’t seem at all perturbed about saying goodbye to me on the first morning. Really, it was all about being able to put on his backpack just like Sam – so exciting. I got a wave and a ‘bye mum’ as he went off to play (meanwhile Mum – filled with pregnancy hormones, which surely can’t help – heads back to the car trying to contain her sobs). He was a little more clued in on days 2, 3 and 4, but still had relatively few tears for his first time away from the safety of Mum and home.
Charlie’s now going to daycare two days per week and while I know I will be thankful for the extra ‘space’ when I have a new baby at home, I will miss my little Treasure. He’s so easy to have around and happily entertains himself around the house. His language development has been amazing in the past month, as he has started stringing words together more and now tells us ‘stories’, and I love hearing his vocabulary grow each day (I may take that back when he starts talking underwater like his brother can though!). Some days I wish I could bottle how delightful he is, contain some of those ‘baby’ features that I know will disappear in time. I try to savour each cuddle, each cheeky grin, each attempted new word, each view of his cute baby bottom that I can while it lasts. My baby is now almost two.
At three and a half, my ‘big boy’ Sam is also growing up, now going to Pre-Prep on five days per fortnight at a local kindy. He’s only had two and a half days so far, and has been a little tentative at dropoff, but I think he’s going to love it. Six months ago I was a little worried about whether Sam would be ready for this next step, especially being one of the youngest of kids in his school year, but now I feel like he’s so ready for this challenge. I am both excited at all he’ll get to experience this year and sad that, before long, I’ll have to give him up to ‘formal education’… (but anyway, sorry, back to living in the moment). I can’t wait to see what Pre-Prep has in store for Sam this year.
Sam challenges me and astounds me every day I am blessed to spend with him. While I was seriously ready to give him away around Christmas time (maybe just a short term loan) for just how much he was challenging me, I love watching him grow and develop. I have a theory that you generally only find out what your kids are capable of by accident. Sam is constantly demonstrating his capabilities to me and, although slightly alarmed at some of his endeavours (finding a ladder, retrieving and eating four iceblocks from the freezer before I’d woken up one morning was just one of them), he secretly impresses me with his initiative and ingenuity most days. He has always loved to help, but now I am able to reap the benefits of him assisting with dinner preparation, getting himself dressed or helping Charlie get his shoes on (you know, like actually being helpful) and it’s a beautiful thing. And the love this boy has for his family truly blows me away – again, not always convenient, but he sure does love to make sure we’re all well-kissed and cuddled. He may drive me nuts sometimes, but gee he is an amazing kid.
When I watch the milestones that our boys achieve each day, it does make me wonder what achievements Baby Love will be reaching in his life. I am thankful that Sam and Charlie are so different from each other in so many ways and I have witnessed them developing skills at varying rates. I am thankful that I have been patient enough to let them develop in their own time, haven’t stressed over comparisons with other children their age. But will I be dilligent enough with helping Baby Love reach his milestones? Will I feel endless guilt as an already-stretched Mother of 3 over what I’m not doing to help Baby Love achieve? (given my well-developed Catholic guilt, this is fairly likely). And what about long-term milestones – what will our Baby Love become as an adult? Will he get married? Have a career that he loves?
Based on testimonies from other parents of children with Down syndrome, it seems fairly common to throw all ‘normal’ expectations of their child’s future out the window (along with any sense of happiness) initially on receiving the diagnosis. I recently met a lovely Mum with a gorgeous 3 year old daughter who has DS and they received their diagnosis just after Miss E’s birth. Miss E’s Mum said that she immediately discarded any expectations she had for her daughter when she was given the DS diagnosis, but with time she realised that was ‘ridiculous’ and now she expects that Miss E will get a job and get married and do all that ‘normal’ stuff. Other mums I’ve come in contact with have talked about how important it is to have high expectations for all their children. We can’t discard dreams for our childrens’ future, but perhaps we just need to reframe them. Does it matter what our child’s dream job is if it gives him a sense of purpose and makes him happy?
Part of the fears we’ve had as we come to terms with this diagnosis have also been about our future milestones as a married couple – like whether our children will ever leave home, whether we’ll get to travel and do all the other things we’ve dreamed of doing after our children grow up. I know one of the pieces of advice that gave Ben the most comfort in the early days was that it is still just as important for us to have goals, dreams and milestones. Sure, they may be slightly different to what we had imagined or happen on a different timeline, but we don’t need to throw all our future plans out the window.
Perhaps one of the important roles we are given as parents is to help all our children rise above simply what is expected, to live beyond what their ‘labels’ say they should be able to achieve, and to be extra-ordinary, whatever they want to achieve in their lives.
It’s when ordinary people rise above the expectations and seize the opportunity that milestones truly are reached.~ Mike Huckabee