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Learning When to Let My Daughter With Down Syndrome Fly

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My daughter is ambitious and driven, and I will happily take some credit for that along with her dad. Even though this is sometimes worrisome, I marvel at her will to try new things. After all, this is what we have been pushing her to do since her first therapy sessions as an infant after we learned of her Down syndrome diagnosis — to face obstacles with courage while slightly nudging her outside of her comfort zone. We hope to encourage and inspire her to rise above life’s challenges; to show her what she is truly capable of accomplishing.

Our challenge now is knowing when to hold her hand and knowing when to let her fly. I find myself conflicted between the two more often than not – like a constant battle of whether or not I am making the right choice with either option.

The tide is shifting now. Where I was once reassuring her to make her leap, she is now looking for me to let her go.  She is getting a little older, a little more brave and definitely more vocal about her wants and needs. With that comes the tightening of my grip, when all along I have been promising to loosen it up as she got older.

This little girl, my firstborn, is so curious about the world she lives in. Yet I sometimes catch myself holding her back from experiences because I am afraid for her. In stark contrast to everything we have been preparing her for, allowing her to further explore her independence feels more difficult than ever. It comes with the territory.

For me, being a mother to a child with a disability has caused the emotional tides to change in different phases of parenting her. While these phases are unpredictable, they usually offer a unique vantage point, a place where I can look out and evaluate where we are together. Perspective might hit me at a doctor’s appointment or when she is standing on the edge of a diving board; places that prove how far she has come or how much ground we have yet to cover.

It doesn’t escape me… the blessing of her being able to have these opportunities, the option to choose things for herself and the chance to see who she is becoming as she turns another year older. I am undeniably grateful for that. She is getting ready for kindergarten this fall and going to her first friend birthday party next week. These are wonderful and amazing things. Things I once worried about, but now I am watching her thrive.

For me that is the most beautiful part of this journey — knowing we can still do this all right alongside her, while keeping enough distance for her to seek experiences for herself. Knowing even more that if we allow her to keep trying new things, she will only continue to learn and grow tenfold. And, finally, having the revelation that parenting a child who happens to have Down syndrome isn’t so different from parenting a child without it.

Originally published: July 24, 2016
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