My Son Believes in Santa Claus, and That’s All I Need to Know

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He believes in Santa Claus.
So I promise to keep the spirit of Christmas.

He believes in full-body hugs and sticky kisses and snuggles.
So I promise to keep him warm and held.

He believes in tickles and chicken jokes and goofy faces.
So I promise to make him smile.

He believes in popcorn in Momma’s bed and late night cartoons.
So I promise to break the rules.

He believes in big splashes and sparkling bubbles and water guns.
So I promise to remember to get wet.

He believes I’m a princess.
So I promise to let him rescue me.

He believes in loud laughter and squeals and giggles.
So I promise to remember joy.

In everything.

Every day.

Because life is more than the lot we’ve been given.

It’s what we believe.

And it’s what we do with what we believe.

And I promise to remember that.

Because today…

tonight…

this very minute…

He believes in Santa Claus.

And that’s all I need to know.

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Moments Like This Make Me Forget the Fear I Had When We Got the Down Syndrome Diagnosis

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CRdadBeachprofile2 For many new parents of a child with Down Syndrome, it’s far too easy to focus on the diagnosis and the challenges. It’s far to difficult to imagine the wonderfully rewarding and simple everyday stuff that actually makes up the bulk of our lives.

But over time, the looming enormity of the diagnosis begins to give way to the unveiling of the character, personality, quirks and needs of the child behind the label. Your emphasis on the big, bad diagnosis and fears of the known/unknown are slowly replaced, until finally you get back to where you were supposed to be: thinking of your child as a child, not as a disabled child. You learn more and more about the uniqueness and capabilities of the real child and care less and less about the larger world’s stereotypes and emphasis on perceived disability over actual ability.

So, with that in mind, even though in 1994 I couldn’t have imagined it any better, here’s a bit of what happened yesterday…

Connor, who will turn 6 in July, started my day off on a bright and sweet note by saying to me, with a charitably reassuring tone, “Daddy, you are so handsome! You are a handsome boy!” Now, he said this to me even though I’m neither, and I had a mean case of bed head, was bleary-eyed and unshaven, and had a bandage covering a scrape on my nose. He kept saying, “I’m sorry, Daddy, let me kiss!” offering to peck my nose.

During breakfast he recapped his school day, when he’d been class leader in his a.m. kindergarten class. The leader has a variety of responsibilities: reading the daily plan out loud, counting the boys and girls in attendance, checking the weather outside and setting the weather wheel display appropriately, leading the class in the Pledge of Allegiance and then leading the line of kids to and from the playground. I asked how many friends were in class, and he told me “Eleven boys, eight girls. Nineteen friends!” And then he put his hand over his heart and recited the Pledge of Allegiance for me, something he’s done for months now. It amazes me and brings me to tears each time.

Later, we were doing yard work, turning over and mulching the garden beds. We were having a great time inspecting worms, whistling back at the birds, spreading mulch and generally getting pretty dirty. At one point he said, “My hands are yucky! Dad, show me your hands!” I did and he said, “Hey, you’ve got yucky hands, too!” So we laughed at our yucky, yucky hands and kept an eye out for more big, fat worms to pick up and let tickle our palms.

In the evening, as dinner wound down and it was time to go up for a bath, my tired and self-satisfied boy slid down from his chair, grabbed his dessert bowl and spoon to take over to the sink (unprompted!), turned, stopped in front of me, got that glint in his eye and said slowly, clearly and dramatically, “Daddy…you…are…my…best…friend!”

CRBTmighty It was a wonderful day to be a dad, to be his dad.

It’s in such stunningly simple and precious moments like those that the pain and significance of many past fears and struggles simply melt away. We don’t know what lies ahead for us, but the power and promise of that kind of love keeps me going even when I feel overwhelmed by self-doubts about my abilities to be the kind of man and father he needs and deserves.

New parents — and particularly new dads — need to realize that while they can’t make the Down syndrome go away, there’s still an infinite amount of good they can do in their child’s life. There’s tremendous success and deep satisfaction to be found in helping their child realize his or her own potential. There’s no achievement in work or business that will ever match the pride and joy I feel when Connor achieves something new.

While I still may struggle a bit to redefine my measures of success in this world, this society, this life, one thing I know for sure is that I’m making a difference in his life, and it’s the most important thing I have ever done or ever will.

The Mighty is asking its readers this question: If you could go back to the day you (or a loved one) got a diagnosis, what would you tell yourself? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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Official Rules: Ready for Recovery Cancer Treatment Planner Giveaway

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No purchase necessary to enter or win. A purchase will not increase your chances of winning.

Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws.

ELIGIBILITY: Open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, 18 years of age or older. Void where prohibited. Employees and their immediate families (and those living in their same households, whether or not related) of Mighty Proud Media and their respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies are not eligible to enter or win. By participating, entrants agree to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of the judges and/or Sponsor, which are binding and final on matters relating to this sweepstakes.

To Enter: Between 12pm Eastern Time (“ET”) on February 17th, 2015 and 11:59 p.m. ET on February 28th, 2015 (the “Entry Period”), Online: visit www.themighty.com for the Ready for Recovery article. Next, comment on the article. To enter for the Breast Cancer planner 2-piece set, include the hashtag #fightbreastcancer, for the Cancer planner 2-piece set, use the hashtag #fightcancer. You can also enter by tweeting the article with the designated hashtag, tagging @themightysite. Multiple entries will be void. This offer is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. 

Drawing: Potential winners will be selected in a random drawing from all eligible entries received by an independent judging agency. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.

WINNER NOTIFICATION: Potential winners will be notified by Facebook direct message or Twitter direct message. Note that the applicant must have liked The Mighty Facebook page or be following The Mighty on Twitter to be contacted. If sponsor is unable to contact a potential winner or a potential winner is not in compliance with these Official Rules, prize will be forfeited and, at Sponsor’s discretion, an alternate winner selected. If a potential winner is an eligible minor in his/her jurisdiction of residence, prize may be awarded in the name of his/her parent or legal guardian who will be responsible for fulfilling all requirements imposed on winner set forth herein.

Prizes: 1 prize winner will receive a 2-piece Cancer Treatment set with an Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”) is $49.99. 1 prize will receive a 2-piece Breast Cancer Treatment Planner set, ARV $49.99. Prizes are awarded “as is” with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied by Sponsor. Winners may not substitute, assign or transfer prize or redeem prize for cash, but Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to substitute prize (or portion thereof) with one of comparable or greater value. Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state and local taxes, if any, as well as any other costs and expenses associated with prize acceptance and use not specified herein as being provided. All prize details are at Sponsor’s sole discretion.

General Conditions: Released Parties (as defined below) are not responsible for lost, late, incomplete, inaccurate, stolen, misdirected, undelivered, garbled, illegible or postage-due mail, entries or email; or for lost, interrupted or unavailable network, server, Internet Service Provider (ISP), website, or other connections, availability or accessibility or miscommunications or failed computer, satellite, telephone or cable transmissions, lines, or technical failure or jumbled, scrambled, delayed, or misdirected transmissions or computer hardware or software malfunctions, failures or difficulties, or other errors or difficulties of any kind whether human, mechanical, electronic, computer, network, typographical, printing or otherwise relating to or in connection with the sweepstakes, including, without limitation, errors or difficulties which may occur in connection with the administration of the sweepstakes, the processing of entries, the announcement of the prizes or in any sweepstakes-related materials. Released Parties are also not responsible for any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by site users, tampering, hacking, or by any equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the sweepstakes. Released Parties are not responsible for injury or damage to participants’ or to any other person’s computer related to or resulting from participating in this sweepstakes or downloading materials from or use of the website. Persons who tamper with or abuse any aspect of the sweepstakes or website or who are in violation of these Official Rules, will be disqualified and all associated entries will be void. Should any portion of the sweepstakes be compromised by virus, worms, bugs, non-authorized human intervention or other causes which, corrupt or impair the administration, security, fairness or proper play, or submission of entries, Mighty Proud Media reserves the right at its sole discretion to suspend, modify or terminate the sweepstakes and, if terminated, at its discretion, select the potential winners from all eligible, non-suspect entries received prior to action taken or as otherwise deemed fair and appropriate by Sponsor. Entrants, by participating, agree that Mighty Proud Media and their respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies and all of their respective officers, directors, employees, representatives and agents (collectively, “Released Parties”) will have no liability whatsoever for, and shall be held harmless by entrants against, any liability, for any injuries, losses or damages of any kind, including death, to persons, or property resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from acceptance, possession, misuse or use of any prize or participation in this sweepstakes. Each winner, by acceptance of prize, except where legally prohibited, grants permission for its designees to use his/her name, address (city and state), photograph, voice and/or other likeness and prize information for advertising, trade and promotional purposes without further compensation, in all media now known or hereafter discovered, worldwide in perpetuity, without notice or review or approval. In the event of a dispute regarding entries received from multiple users having the same e-mail account, the authorized subscriber of the e-mail account at the time of entry will be deemed to be the entrant and must comply with these Official Rules. Authorized account subscriber is the natural person who is assigned the e-mail address by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), on-line service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses.

CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE THE WEBSITE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS AND SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR WILL DISQUALIFY ANY SUCH INDIVIDUAL AND RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES (INCLUDING ATTORNEYS’ FEES) AND OTHER REMEDIES FROM ANY SUCH INDIVIDUAL TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.

USE OF DATA: By participating in the Sweepstakes, you hereby agree to collection and usage of the personal information provided by Mighty Proud Media and Ready for Recovery. This sweepstakes shall be governed by Mighty Proud Media’s privacy policy.

Winners’ List: For the names of the winners, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: 2606 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, California, 91214, for receipt no later than March 30, 2015.

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This Young Woman Captures What Depression Feels Like in a Beautiful and Heartbreaking Way

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This is a powerful and unflinching look at a very serious condition.

Sabrina Benaim, 26, is a spoken word poet from Toronto who struggles with depression and anxiety, according to her website. In the performance below, she spectacularly articulates what it feels like to live with these conditions and the frustration that comes from trying explain herself to others.

Watch Sabrina Benaim’s “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” at the 2014 National Poetry Slam in the video below:

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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When I Started Eating Lunch With My Classmate With Down Syndrome

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Differences surround us. They can define us. They can hurt and separate, shape us and inspire us.

In fifth grade, the last thing most people want to be is different.

That’s when I met Caleb, as we were waiting for the bus to take us home. Caleb was obviously ready for the school day to be over; he kept saying, “Bus, bus, bus.” I was unsure what to think at first, but I knew, much like me, Caleb wanted the day to be done. But that seemed to be where our similarities stopped. He was unlike most of the other fifth graders I knew.  

Caleb has Down syndrome.

He spent most of his time in a different classroom than the rest of the other students. He often sat in a different section of the cafeteria. He spoke differently; he acted differently.  

But our differences didn’t scare me. In fact, our differences brought us together.

Around this time, I became involved in the Adaptive P.E. program at school. The program was voluntary and allowed me to work with my peers with special needs. I definitely wanted to be a part of it. Not only did I enjoy the program, but I learned more about Caleb.

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Every day at lunch, I would sit with him. I thought this would be tough at first, because I was unsure how to interact because of our differences. But it was actually fun. After lunch, I would walk Caleb to P.E., and we would play together. We would bowl. We would dance. We would laugh.

And I began to look forward to spending time with him.

Others didn’t understand what was on Caleb’s plate, like I did. Others judged him. They looked at him with strange faces. They excluded him from activities.

One day, at recess, this all changed.

Caleb and I ventured outside to play soccer together. I assumed the game would only be the two of us. But much to my surprise, all of the other kids joined us. And this time, no one judged Caleb. No one made fun of him. No one left him out. It was Caleb’s soccer game, and I stood in amazement and happiness when I noticed the other kids give Caleb the ball and let him score. 

Caleb has taught me that it’s OK to be different. He’s reminded me to treat others the way I want to be treated. I know, without a doubt, he is out in the world somewhere, teaching others this same lesson.

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My Son Did Something Naughty… and My Heart Swelled With Joy

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IMG_6746 I’ve been to many parent/teacher conferences. I have three typically-developing children — well-behaved, high achievers. In these later years of their schooling, I’ve received a lot of forms with “No conference necessary at this time” checked off. In the early years I went in to confer with teachers, who, to my surprise, never wanted to talk about the sheer wonderfulness of my darlings. There was always a problem. Most of the time the problem was talking in class.

“I’ve tried him in every seat in the room,” my oldest’s first grade teacher complained in her beautiful Irish brogue. “Finally I put him in the back and he talked to himself!”

It was the same with my two daughters. All I could do was say how sorry I was that they were disrupting the class, promise to talk to them, and do so. Then I waited for maturity and the passage of time to do the real work. I myself was often written up as the chatterbox, my name chalked on Mrs. Turtur’s blackboard circa 1976.

Now I have a son in kindergarten who doesn’t talk — or walk or see. When I go in for a conference (and it’s always necessary) I already know we won’t be discussing his sheer wonderfulness. The life and education of a special needs child is a continual problem-solving process, and I’ve become a de facto member of the Child Study Team.

Last year I went in to meet with T’s TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired). They’d been working on nesting and stacking cups. T uses an adaptive activity chair with a tray in these sessions, and Miss R. told me when he grows frustrated with the activity, T pushes the cups off of his tray with a sweeping arm motion.

“But Mrs. V. [my son’s aide] has gotten very good at catching the cups in mid-air and putting them right back,” Miss R. assured me. “So… lately he’s started throwing them backwards over his shoulder, instead.”

We looked at each other for a moment, and then I burst out laughing. Miss R. did too.

“I know… it’s wonderful, isn’t it?” she said. “So typical for his age, so creative…”

“So naughty,” I filled in.

It’s so hard for T to make himself known as a person in the world. At home we know him well, but it’s hard sometimes for us to understand what he wants and needs. He has only a few signs and sounds he uses to communicate. He relies on others to move him around and bring him things. We make so many decisions for T, and many of them are guesses.

I never expected that my heart would swell with joy when I heard my little boy was doing something naughty. I went around bragging about it for days. He’d given me the gift not just of rebelling against something, but finding a new and better way to rebel when thwarted. Sometimes, when I worry, I take that memory out and picture Miss R.’s impression of T tossing a cup over his shoulder with determination and aplomb.

Naughty — but also very nice.

The Mighty is celebrating the moments we gave or received a gift that touched our lives in a special way. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post describing this moment for you. Include a photo and 1-2 sentence bio to community@themighty.com.
Hint! Some gifts don’t come in packages.

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