We had an opportunity to take the kids to a water park and have fun as a family. Sometimes these weekends are hard for me. Often times Lydia does not travel well and it feels as though she takes something away from the other girls. As wonderful as an opportunity this is, it is also a time to "expose" my little angel to others, her scars show, she is on display and she is right alongside others her age. With that comes comments that you can't escape, but it also, in my mind, is an opportunity to compare Lydia to other typical kids her age. I know I shouldn't, but I do, it is hard not to. And sometimes I just get sick of hearing "Oh she is so tiny." "Oh, look at those scars!" "Isn't it nice to have a child that is happy all of the time."
To my surprise, the water park taught me a lot of wisdom and I am going to try my best to relate it to what I have learned about having a child with Down syndrome. I am not a writer, don't claim to be one; but I love to share my struggles, our journey, and what I have learned. I pray that I am able to connect the wisdom I have learned as well as it seems to be clicking in my head!
At a water park you see all kinds of people, different shapes and sizes, different heights and shades, different suits and clothes. There is a lot to look at. But one beautiful thing, when you take the time to stop; everyone there is doing something in common, they are having fun, they are enjoying family, they are embracing the moment. It doesn't matter (well maybe to some but that fear does not stop them) what they look like, how much money they have, what disability they have, in general, everyone is having fun. What a rare thing to find today. Everyone there is having fun and doing their own thing. They are embracing that moment and not allowing other things to get in the way or influence them. (***Generalization here, I realize that some people may say things judge and so forth, but in general a water park is a pretty fun happy place to be!)
Ellen and Allison were encouraging Lydia to go down a slide or splash in the pool. They were running here and there and every where. They were making friends and enjoying just being kids. They were carefree and were loving life. They were laughing and screaming and smiling and laughing some more. It was a great site to see. There was nothing on their mind other than having fun.
I watched Lydia play and splash and I noticed she is behind a little bit compared to others her size. However, I began to notice all of the small stuff, the important stuff about what goes into the process of accomplishing her goals. I noticed that she was able to walk very well without her SMOs, she had a very small base, which is simply amazing. She was doing the "Lydia-sized" stairs extremely well with little to no help. She was able to walk up and down (and up and down and up and down) that steep, slippery slope without losing her balance. She was very social and interested in other people. She wanted to hug every baby/toddler who was crying. She was happy and content just being Lydia.
One of my biggest fears with having a child who has Down syndrome was her being delayed and what that all meant. I was told several times life will be at a slow pace; her pace. What does that all mean? Lydia truly has taught me what that means and it is NOT a bad thing, not even close; it is the biggest blessing ever. Slowing down, understanding the process, and just being able to embrace every moment has made such a profound impact on my life. I realized that I have missed out on so much with Ellen and Allison by thinking faster is better. I missed the joy in realizing how much effort goes into every little accomplishment. I missed things because I was too busy looking for the next huge milestone instead of embracing the small components that make those big moments. I missed out on celebrating the things that were important to my kids because I was so focused on those major things.
Lydia has so many things that she can do and is good at doing them. She is delayed in some areas and her understanding is not quite where everyone else her age is at. However, what she lacks she makes up in other ways. We celebrate each and every milestone and we celebrate the small stuff leading up to those big accomplishments. We better understand the process of what goes into sitting, walking, talking, eating. Life is a journey not a race and Lydia has taught me that so well. I feel like our approach is completely different and I wish that I had some of these lessons when I when I was raising the other girls. (***I am not saying we are perfect by any means, but God has been teaching us and this stuff is so important, I feel like I understand so much better and I am blessed to have been taught this!)
In the changing room at the water park, I put Lydia on the bench to get her into her clothes. I had her naked and I was kissing her belly. There were three ladies staring at Lydia. I couldn't understand why, but I thought it must be because she was so cute (well probably because she was so small). When I walked out by my husband it dawned on me that they were looking at her belly. Her belly tells a beautiful story of survival. It is a story that we celebrate and embrace. I love it, but I am so use to it, I didn't even think that they were looking at the many scars she has on her belly. What a great moment for me. This is a huge fear of mine, what will others think when they see her scars? There were no fears standing in my way, just pure joy of kissing my daughter's belly and embracing that moment. How simply wonderful!
We all have a story to tell, whether big or small. We all have endured trials of many. Some trials have made us better and others we have barely survived. But all of these trials have shaped us and molded us in to who we are today, for better or for worse. We can't tell the future, we can't tell how our kids will turn out, we don't know what God has in store for us in the next moment. However, we can take each moment to live and embrace what God has given us. Instead of hurrying to the next thing, making life a race of who will finish with the biggest and best, we are to live each moment, to be thankful, and to appreciate every little thing we have been given. Thanks to the many people in the water park that put that into perspective to me, that made me understand the huge blessing it is to have Lydia in our lives, to have learned these lessons and to continue to learn the lessons God has for me and our family.
I never thought that a weekend at the water park could teach me so much. It is simple, but it is profound. Life is never going to be what we think, but it can be so much more if we embrace what we are given. She is more than a diagnosis, she is more than being behind. She is more than what other's think. She is mine, she is a beating heart, she is teachable. She may not be where I thought she should be, but she is exactly where God wants her to be. Take time to be proud of who you are, the moments you were given, and embrace the little stuff, for that will pass too quickly and you will never be able to get it back.
Don't be afraid of the unknown because that will change you in ways that will rock your world. Don't listen to things of this world because they are talking without having the experience. Don't let your fears get the best of you and talk you out of something wonderful. Take each moment for what it is, embrace it, learn from it, and don't cheat yourself out of some of the best blessings.
Simple wisdom from the water park: embrace each moment, it does not matter what you look like, your size, your color, your disability, your wealth, your physical appearance....it is your heart that is beautiful (make sure it is)! Don't let those small moments pass you by because they are the best reasons to celebrate! Don't let fear rob you of blessings! Have fun most of all and enjoy this moment.