Welcome.

I was thinking the other day that I’ve been writing in this blog for about ten years. A lot has happened since my first silly post in 2009. A lot. And maybe if anyone new were reading this, I thought I’d give a quick update.

Over 10 years ago, I had my first child. His name is Fynn and he’s awesome. He’s smart and creative. He’s an awesome storyteller. He’s just an awesome kid all around.

After Fynn was born, I worked part time for a while, but then I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I did continue to write on the side.

And then Mia was born. A soft-marker for Down syndrome showed up in our 20-week ultrasound, but I was just a few months shy of the release of the non-invasive chromosome tests (and I was not going to terminate the pregnancy), so I “waited it out.”

On November 5, 2012, Mia was born and she did indeed have Down syndrome.

And I thought my entire life was going to come to an end. Seriously. I wish I could say that I had a positive attitude and I was convinced everything was going to be awesome. But I really didn’t. And none of the doctors helped assuage those fears. “She might not walk until she’s 5 or 6,” said one doctor. “She might not know you’re her mom,” said another.

Then over the course of the first year (when she rolled over at five weeks old), I realized that the doctors were completely full of shit (excuse my language). They were dealing with outdated statistics and worst-case scenarios.

And Mia has truly shocked me over the course of 6 years. There have been delays – cognitive and physical – but nothing like the horror story I was worried about. In fact, to quote one of Mia’s teachers at school, “She’s magical.” And it’s true. She is.

Then, a few years ago, I faced an “out of the blue” divorce. To say I was shocked was an understatement. Devastated was more like it.

I won’t go into the details. The internet is forever and my kids will probably read this someday.

Amy Poehler had a great chapter about divorce when you have little kids in her book. One thing that resonated with me is that you’re stuck with the other person – forever. You can’t just forget they exist. Imagine this scenario played out on a weekly basis:

“I CAN’T BELIEVE I EVER LIKED YOU! Hey, can you bring back Fynn’s swim trunks on Sunday? Swim lessons.” (and repeat)

Also, I hate the statement, “Why can’t divorced people be adults?” Divorced people are adults. Very hurt, angry, frustrated, and tired adults who are doing their best.

And that’s what I’ve done for the past four years. I’ve done my best as a single mom.

I went back to work in the arts. And I’ve enjoyed being back to work more than I thought I would. I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom for a while longer, but that wasn’t in the cards. Thankfully I work for a flexible environment where I can have some work-life balance.

Because while Mia is amazing, she still has a disability. And that does add complications to the mix – particularly with child care. Though I’ve had some amazing experiences over the past four years.

And I have to give a shout out to Fynn, who has been an amazing big brother. Not only is he incredibly loving and protective of his baby sister, he’s also her hero and her favorite playmate.

And that is my last 10 years in a nutshell. Just some happy chaos. Welcome.

And I’d like to answer a question here that I get asked a lot. Yes, you may send any moms experiencing a Down syndrome diagnosis my way. When I was pregnant with Mia, the only thing that kept me from sinking into the depths was looking at the blogs of moms of kiddos with Down syndrome. Just seeing real life. I distinctly remember the switch in my head flipping. One of the moms posted a blog with photos of her daughter helping her dad wash a car. For many weeks, I had felt like I was crawling through the dark with no end in sight, and then I saw that photo and it was like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. It had finally occurred to me that life *might* be okay. I was still terrified. But that *might* helped me through the next couple months of my pregnancy.

And then “might be okay” turned into definitely okay. Definitely great. Definitely amazing. Definitely magic.

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First grade.

When Mia was a tiny baby, I’d hold her, look into her sleeping face, and wonder who she would become. I had almost no experience with Down syndrome, so those thoughts were very much wrapped up in fear.

I once asked a writer of a book about Down syndrome why most memoirs are written about the early years. The books seem to dry up around age six. And her hypothesis was that the problems become more complex and not so pretty.

But after six years living with Down syndrome, I have a different hypothesis. Once the fear dissipates and you realize you’re just raising a little kid and not a unicorn, the problems become sort of boring. Sure, I have frustrations on the daily about communication and listening, but I’m still just dealing with morning routines and breaking up fights with her brother and getting ready for the start of school.

Just like everyone else.

(Don’t tell Mia I said she isn’t a unicorn. Her highness would be offended.)

For years I used the phrase “More alike than different” but didn’t exactly know what it meant. In the thick of therapies, IEPs, and health questions, I felt that our family was very, very different. But now that we’re in an inclusive school and we’ve determined that her health issues are not serious, I’m starting to understand what it actually means.

My child is unique. Just like yours. It’s our family life that is more alike than different. Of course Mia has little idiosyncrasies that make her Mia. Just like Fynn has idiosyncrasies that make him Fynn.

But our family is very similar to a family with two typically developing children. School shopping, movie nights, dinner battles over foods they both like, vacations, and reminding them both to brush their teeth.

I don’t even know what I’d write a memoir about now. “Yesterday, Mia got super mad at me because I took away something she wanted, and she ran into her bedroom and slammed the door” – said every parent who ever existed. “We picked out school clothes at Target. Mia couldn’t decide between the pink or purple shirts” – riveting stuff.

First grade. It’s hard to believe that it’s starting tomorrow. Mia has grown so much this summer that I can’t wait to see how she progresses this year.

Also, here is my yearly encouragement to talk to your children about differences, but also to notice the similarities. Encourage them to ask questions and seek understanding. Encourage them to be friends with someone who is different than them. Encourage them to stand up for children who might not be able to stand up for themselves. We’re all in this together. Not just school, but life.

Happy new school year, everyone!

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Community.

Community.

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” Mahatma Gandhi

Last night I was lamenting to a friend that I was tired. I’m most definitely an introvert and sometimes being “on” for an event and socializing are just really exhausting. I had to talk with other humans (who were perfectly lovely), but I’d really rather be at home with a book.

This particularly exhausting event was a party for one of Mia’s classmates. But this morning, I woke up and thought it was a little funny that I was complaining about having to talk to people. Because the reason I had to socialize with other adult humans is because my little girl was playing with her friends.

When we arrived, Mia ran off with the girls from her class, and I barely saw her the rest of the time we were there. So then I had to stress about talking to the other parents.

What I didn’t have to do was walk around facilitating her play with the other kids and try to “explain” Mia. All of these children understood Mia and already were her friends because…

Inclusion.

What Mia’s school does really well is inclusion. Several times a year, I’ll hear on the news, through social media, or from politicians, that inclusion is not the way. Children like my daughter disrupt the class, causing other children to “stop learning.”

Let me address that. The reason that is happening in some schools is because inclusion is an investment. It takes time and money. And if you starve schools of resources, then inclusion becomes more difficult to do. Study after study proves that the best way to help all students is through inclusion. But inclusion is a commitment to outcomes. And it’s not free.

And if the answer to “disruption” is removing students from a class, making them the other, discriminating against them, and causing community tragedies, then I’m going to say that is definitely not the way.

I wish I could bring all the people who believe separation is best to that party yesterday – which happened to be for Mia’s friend with Down syndrome at Gigi’s Playhouse. Where Mia’s friend was celebrated by his typically developing friends, and Mia and her friend were a part of the group. Little kids didn’t ask questions like “What’s wrong with her.” They asked questions like, “Mia, do you want to play?”

When inclusion is done well, it builds a better community. And after what I saw at that party, we all want to be a part of that community.

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Try harder.

I saw it happen again today. The mom of child with special needs says, “But what about me? My child doesn’t fit into your mold.” And the mold maker says, “Try harder,” or worse, “But I’ve seen other children with special needs fit into my mold.”

Try harder.

To any mom of a child with special needs who was “encouraged” to try harder, I’m so sorry. Unless they have experienced what we have, they don’t know. They just don’t know that no matter how hard you try, your kid won’t fit into any mold.

They’ve never experienced well-meaning people looking at you like you have failed when you are working to exhaustion trying to find the right therapies, the right treatments, or just the right clothes that don’t make your child have a meltdown.

And they don’t see the work that went into even the tiny triumph of sitting in a restaurant and enjoying a meal like “regular” people. They just don’t know.

Sure, they might have experienced the humiliation of a temper tantrum in public. But they’ve never had someone genuinely look at their child with pity – when you know that awe is what they should really being feeling. Awe at what your child has had to overcome to do simple things like sitting up or using a fork.

I’ve seen them time and again. The lists of things you should never say to a mom with a child with special needs. I can’t speak for other moms, but I’ll tell you what I’d love to hear from my friends, family, church and school families, and just people in general.

“We are just going to throw out that mold and accept your child for who they are. And not only that, we’re going to teach our children to do the same. The days of your child having to live away from society without ‘bothering’ anyone are over. We see you. And we need you to be part of our community, and we’ll do whatever we can to make that happen.”

Because disability is a part of humanity. It’s not about giving other people special privileges. It’s about setting up a system where we care for each other because – unless we die tragically at a young age – we will very likely become disabled through age or circumstance. So, caring for the most vulnerable among us is caring for ourselves. Accepting people with disabilities is accepting that humanity is fragile, that life is precious, and that no matter your ability, you have a part to play in our world.

Dear special needs mom, I see you and hear you. And your child has a place in our community. And if you’re feeling out of place, it’s not from a lack of trying. It’s because your community hasn’t caught up to what you know to be true. That your child doesn’t have “special needs,” your child just has the need to belong. And we need to make that happen.

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Lists.

Every time January hits, I feel inundated by inspiration. Facebook posts about people feeding the hungry. Instagram posts about people conquering fears and climbing mountains. Blogs about how someone faced their worst nightmare and became a better person because of it.

After I had Mia, I read a lot of inspiring blogs about kids with Down syndrome. And I started writing about what I was experiencing in my own blog, mostly because I was trying to understand what I thought about it. And writing is how I sort out the mess of thoughts in my head.

Unfortunately, after Mia was born, the mess of thoughts I was sorting out included all the things I was just never going to be able to do. I had a list. I had imagined an extensive list of how my life would never be the same. Not very inspirational.

It was quite a list.
1. I was never going to be able to leave my house.
2. I was never going to be able to travel again.
3. I was for sure never going to be able to take the kids anywhere alone.
4. My kids would never have a loving sibling relationship.
5. My daughter would never be a “normal” little girl.
6. She just won’t have any joy in her life.
7. She’ll never have friends.
8. She’ll never learn how to read and write.

And the list goes on, and on, and on. What I realized soon was that all of those thoughts came from a real place of prejudice. Because clearly, Down syndrome is a “terrible thing.” Or so I thought I understood.

And of course, none of those things came to pass. It was all fear. None of it was real.

Of course I left my house. We went to Colorado that same year on a trip. I took the kids somewhere alone on an almost daily basis. My son loves his sister more than I can even describe. She would be offended if I told anyone she was “normal.” She is clearly a princess. Her joy is contagious. She has a lot of friends and talks about them daily. She started writing her name this year and has started to show understanding of words.

Then I got divorced and became a single mom, and I started a new list.
1. How will I travel alone?
2. How will I ever work and take care of them?
3. How will I handle the day-to-day care of a child with special needs alone?
4. How will I give them a normal childhood?
5. We’ll never do anything fun!
6. I’ll never be able to potty train her alone.
7. All hope is lost … and so on and so forth.

And again, fear, fear, fear.

And of course, the kids and I have already traveled alone multiple times. It gets easier and easier as Fynn gets older and can help. Somehow I both work and take care of them (it’s all a blur). I realized pretty early that I was already handling the day-to-day care of Mia. I’ll put the next two together. They do not have a normal childhood; they have an awesome childhood and lots and lots of fun. Potty training wasn’t easy, but we’re doing it. Every day. In fact, she hasn’t had an accident, even overnight in so long I can’t remember.

And all hope is not lost.

Sometimes a friend will say something like, “I could never do it.”

I think this is the part where I’m supposed to say how hard it has been to raise Mia, but I’m doing it. We work hard and persevere. Inspiration, inspiration, blah, blah, blah.

But here’s the secret. I don’t believe my kids are any more difficult to raise than anyone else’s children. Mia is an easy kid. Oh, she has her stubborn moments. She’s a very sassy banana. But she also listens and does what she’s told. Sadness is easy to sooth with a big hug. And it’s really, really exciting to watch her grow up.

But I recognize there are challenges I face on a daily basis that other people don’t. Wait … hold on … there are fears I face on a daily basis that other people do not.

Last week, I took Mia and Fynn to Sesame Street Live. I was terrified. We’ve gone to the theater before, and you’d think I’d be fine. But I started another list in my head, “What if she doesn’t like it?” “What if she won’t go to the bathroom?” “What if we can’t find a close parking garage?” “What if it snows?”

Aside from the snow, none of those things came true. And even the snow wasn’t so bad.

And then during the show, I started to get all teary eyed. Cause I thought about my list. All the fears I had about how she wasn’t going to have joy in her life. Will she ever enjoy things? She won’t be “normal.” And here was my little girl, in the presence of her favorite characters, shouting out their names (oh, she was never going to talk, too), waving, laughing at the right moments, and having the time of her life.

I know I’ll always make lists. But now I know it’s just the fear creeping back in. And I just have to ignore the list.

But there is one thing I was 100 percent right about. My life has never been the same. And isn’t that an amazing thing?

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Let them ask.

Mia and Fynn are on their way back to school on Tuesday. Summer flew by. I’m sure you all feel it. Back to school. Back to packing lunches. Back to activities. And back to worrying if Mia will make friends.

More than once…well lots of times…my friends have expressed to me a worry that their kids might say something uncomfortable around Mia. They might wonder why she doesn’t talk yet. Why she still might need a stroller at times. Just in general, “Why is she different?”

First, I’d like to assure anyone who has worried that their kids might say something inappropriate that I don’t even think about it. It’s not something I worry about, actually. Sure, there are times when a comment stings a bit. But those comments usually come from adults not kids.

Here’s why. Letting your child play with Mia or inviting her to play dates or letting your kids ask questions breaks down that big giant wall between typical and different. Kids fear what they don’t know. They fear different, until they realize that different isn’t all that different from them.

Each week, for writer’s workshop, I send in a photo of what Mia did that weekend. One time it was going to Discovery World. One time the zoo. After Easter, I sent in a photo of Mia dying eggs. What I found out later was that her teachers were not only using them for Mia’s writing projects, they were using them to show the other students how much like them Mia really was. “Mia dyed eggs last weekend, see? How many of you dyed eggs last weekend?” You’re more alike than different.

And this is why inclusion is so important for everyone – Mia and the other students. When you learn about people with disabilities from knowing them, disability becomes normal. It becomes a part of the conversation, and it takes away the stigma.

I learned this lesson before Mia went to school from an incredibly gracious teacher in a check-out line at Target. Fynn has always been a naturally curious kid who genuinely appreciates other people for their differences. As his K5 teacher said, “He is one inclusive little guy.” We were standing behind a woman who had dwarfism. And Fynn looked at her and said, “Oh my, you are very small.” I wanted to, of course, disappear into the floor, and I scolded Fynn a bit for being so brash. Mia was in the cart, and I was ashamed I hadn’t taught my own son to be polite to people with disabilities. She turned to me and said, “Let him ask me questions. I’m a teacher, and I’m used to children’s curiosity. Let him ask.”

Let them ask. And if you’re too nervous to ask a stranger. You can ask me. I promise I won’t be offended.

When you send your kids to school, please talk to them about differences. Talk about the fact that people have all sorts of different abilities. Talk about helping other students but not doing the work for them. Talk about the fact that everyone has inherent value.

And let them ask. It’s the only way you get to know someone.

Happy new school year everyone!

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Four paragraphs.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” ― William Shakespeare, Macbeth

My mother passed away on June 19 after a shockingly short battle with Alzheimer’s. I started noticing memory problems maybe 12 months ago? But they were minor. A few stories told more than once during a weekend. Then decline on fast forward. And here we are.

There have been a lot of traumatic things about the last six years. If you’ve been following along, I think I am living in traumatic. Surprise! Your daughter has Down syndrome. Surprise! You’re getting a divorce. Surprise! Your mom is dying.

But the most traumatic thing was writing my mom’s obituary.

I’m the writer, right? Heck, I write and edit bios for a living. It should have been easy.

And then I boiled her life down to four paragraphs. Four. Her entire life.

Because how do you describe someone who shaped your entire existence? Who sometimes when you don’t expect it, you find yourself mimicking. The person who comforted you and loved you unconditionally. How do you describe that person? The person who saw me at my worst and most vulnerable and endured my hurt and anger at times and still kept coming back.

Who kept telling me I was still loveable even when I didn’t believe it.

Four paragraphs? I could write a novel about her. A novel about being content with who you are and where you are. About blooming where you’re planted. About being happy to sit with a book and not feel constant dissatisfaction. About finding your passion in a classroom surrounded by 6 year olds.

About loving your people.

I hated having to do it. To take a life and remove the nuances and happiness and even the broken parts, and replace them with college graduations and careers.

And I thought about my own obituary. When someone has to write it, will they boil it down to my “accomplishments?” And what will those be? I graduated from college?

Because what I want it to say is that I made mistakes. So many mistakes, but I learned from them. That my children taught me that imperfect beats perfect every time. That I survived a broken, shattered heart. That maybe after that broken heart, I was able to forgive.

That even a broken life is a life well lived.

My dad, the kids, and I are moving forward as best we can, caring for each other and remembering the good parts and the broken parts too. Until we meet again.

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Expectations.

“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.” ― Leo Tolstoy

In my last blog, I said I hadn’t found a “lesson” in my divorce. But that’s not exactly true. I may never be able to find a bright side to all of that, but I have learned a few things about myself. And on the eve of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d write about one.

Expectations.

You know, prior to all of this, holidays were sort of … disappointing. For example, on Mother’s Day, I would wake up in the morning and expect something to happen. I’m not sure even what. Breakfast in bed? A gift? A plan for the day? Something? But what would happen is a quick “Happy Mother’s Day” while I changed a diaper and a “What do you want to do today?” Deflated, I would suggest a few things, but all were usually met with, “Really? That? It’ll be crowded.” Or “The kids will be a nightmare.” And then we’d agree on something to do, but I always felt like no one really wanted to be there. I’d end the day a little sad and think, “Maybe next holiday?” or “Maybe next year?” But inevitably, every holiday was the same. I would work myself up about what it was supposed to be like, and then it would all come crashing down around me.

Now, don’t think I’m sitting her blaming my ex for failing to meet my expectations. Because what I learned about myself? Is that no one was going to meet those expectations. Because we were living in real life and not in a movie. Real diapers needed changing. And real kids needed to be fed. And we were real people who were really tired.

The first Mother’s Day after my divorce was a turning point for me with holidays. It was a bad weekend. Things were still raw. The kids were with their dad the day before. Things were not good between us, and then Mia woke up with strep. I was changing her in the morning and she was covered in a rash. The same rash Fynn had the week before. I called urgent care, set up an appointment and then crawled into bed with both kids to watch cartoons.

And I felt grateful. It’s so hard to explain. This feeling of gratefulness washed over me because I realized I got to do exactly what I loved on Mother’s Day. I got to be a mom.

I used to both anticipate and dread holidays. I knew that I would wake up in the morning excited and then go to bed at night sad.

Because … expectations.

Since that day, I wake up on holidays with literally no expectations. I plan for them. I bring the magic when I can, but I don’t expect anything from anyone. I don’t expect to feel anything. And every holiday since that day has been really wonderful. Have they been perfect? Ha! No. Strep and potty accidents and messy kitchens and meals that go uneaten.

But I’ve gone to bed happy every single time.

And because I don’t have these expectations, I’ve noticed how much room I have given for my kids to bring their own magic. Fynn has, so far, insisted on decorating the birthday cakes. He’s already planning what we’re doing tomorrow, though if it doesn’t happen it won’t matter.

Not to sound like a sappy TV movie, but all that matters to me is that I’ll be with them. Kissing foreheads, making dinners, caring for them (maybe sneaking in some book reading if I’m lucky), and loving them. That’s it. And it really is enough.

I often think about how I got in the way of my own happiness. How I expected something magical to happen to me during holidays. I expected someone to do something to “make me” feel some way about these days. And since I don’t expect it anymore, what I feel is grateful and happy.

I hope everyone has the Mother’s Day they want. But if you don’t, I hope you’re able to find the bright shining spots anyway.

Happy Mother’s Day, mamas! I’m grateful for all of you!

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Three buses.

At the temple there is a poem called “Loss” carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it. ― Arthur Golden

I started last week with such high hopes. I had a great weekend with the kids, I was happy, content, and things seemed great. It ended with me sobbing in a pillow for 4 hours. Allow me to explain.

I mean, I had plans this week. So many plans. I was going to be very nerdy and have a “system” for working. And Monday went great. Even Tuesday went okay.

Then I went to Mia’s endocrinology appointment on Tuesday afternoon to talk about her thyroid. I was expecting easy. I was expecting that it would be like every other appointment. “Still looks good. We’ll keep monitoring!” …is what I thought they were going to say.

And then her doctor pointed out the massive increase in thyroid stimulating hormone in her body and that she would need to go on medication. For the rest of her life.

And BAM! I got hit with the Down syndrome bus. I hate that damn bus. The rest of her life.

I mean, it’s not a huge deal. It’s one pill and so far she’s just taking it. And then she’ll need monthly blood draws until they determine she’s on the correct dose.
But the rest of her life.

And while I was still lying on the pavement, the divorce bus came along.

I don’t normally talk about my divorce here on the blog. Mostly for the kids, but also because I’m still trying to figure out what “lesson” I’m supposed to take away from it. I just can’t seem to find one.

But I feel like I have to talk about this to spare other families from doing the same thing.

Divorce is loss. That’s what it is. Whether you wanted it or not. It’s loss. Painful, debilitating at times, excruciating loss. Loss of dreams, of future, of things you hoped would be. Loss.

I got my first letter, a written letter, asking for a gift back from my ex-husband’s family. Not a family heirloom or anything like that. A gift. Made for me. And I understand.

But loss.

And I had already given it back. Over a year ago. Because I treasured it so much and what it meant that it broke my heart every day to keep it. Because it meant being a part of a family. And now I wasn’t.

That one hurt. A lot. If your family is ever in this situation, don’t do that.

And then I reached for the phone to call my mom. To talk through how I was feeling.

And I was run over by the Alzheimer’s bus … just waiting in the wings. Because she wouldn’t understand.

Loss. You guys, I had all of these plans for the week. And there were lots of good parts.

But these damn buses. All this loss.

This is the part of my blog where I look for the bright side, right? Because I think down-deep. That’s me. Under all the sarcasm and snarky-ness, is an optimist. I hide her pretty well. But I can’t help thinking, “That’s enough despair.”

Do you ever have a moment where you wish you could pause time for just a minute, rewind and play it back?

I was dropping the kids off for school on Friday, and it was raining, so it was a quick good bye before Fynn had to run into the school. He started running, I waved, “Bye, Fynn! Have a good day.” And he stopped, turned around, and ran back, and said, “I forgot my kiss!”

My heart.

That’s enough despair. The kids came back early from their dad’s last night. We’re all still sitting here on Sunday morning in our pajamas and the sun is shining outside. The trees are budding and the grass is green.

I’ll never be able to step out of the way of these buses. I get it. Down syndrome, divorce, Alzheimer’s. I hope that over time, it just takes less time to get back up.

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Success

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ― Winston S. Churchill

When my daughter was born, I had lots of ideas of how all of this would look. How she might take longer to reach milestones, but she’d reach them. How life might look different, but the same. Just slower. Things would just take more time. Life would be life, but it would just take longer to get there.

But over the course of five years, I’ve realized that my very definition of success has changed. It’s not just celebrating the little milestones. It’s a bit different.

This past week, I had a tough conversation about potty training that put me in a funk about the entire process. Mia has been struggling to go for other people besides me and her nanny. And the discussion of “Is Mia really potty trained?” came up. Is Mia really potty trained?

I started the process of training Mia a little over a year ago. It took about ten days for her to figure out what I wanted her to do when she sat down. And she pretty much immediately made the connection that she should hold it between those times. But she’s not to a point where she will go on her own. And she doesn’t give me an indication that she has to go. So every 2 hours, I just take Mia to the bathroom. She has about 1-2 accidents a month.

But is Mia potty trained? Well, sort of. Yes, Mia uses the bathroom and she’s in underwear all day. Mia only wears pull-ups at night. No, Mia is not done potty training.
So has it been a success or a failure? Should I quit and start over (whatever that means…)? Have I made some horrible mistake? Should I hire an expert? How do I make this happen?

Mia pulled up on the furniture when she was one year old. About 2 months later she started cruising. But it took until she was a little more than 2 for her to start walking.

And we tried everything (just ask her physical therapist). We tried holding an iPad and trying to trick her into standing. We tried letting go of hands while walking. Her dad and I sat across from each other and had her walk between us. You name it, we tried it.

How did I make her walk?

And that’s the thing. I didn’t. I was literally sitting in the dining room one day, and Mia walked in with her walker. Then she stopped, turned around, and walked into the living room, leaving the walker behind. And that was that.

I can’t make Mia do anything. She has proven over and over that she will do it, but I have no control over how or when. I can encourage, I can cheer, and I can show her what to do. But Mia will do things when she is good and ready.

So how do I make Mia use the potty on her own? Well…I’m taking her to the potty and she’s going. I suspect that one day, she’ll decide she’s ready to do it on her own, and then that will be that.

But has this year been a success? I guess that depends on your definition.

See, for me it’s not about whether or not she’s done. So what if I have to remember to take her to the bathroom? The confidence she has gained from not being a “baby” anymore is palpable. Actually, she won’t even let me use up the last few diapers I have left for bedtime. She won’t wear them. She insists on stepping into the pull ups. It wasn’t just about the convenience of not having diapers. It was about what not having to wear diapers meant for her. That she’s big.

And now she’s going to kindergarten, and learning her letters and numbers. The fact that sight words were added to her IEP for next year. Reading. Mia is going to be reading.

It’s easy to feel frustrated when you are working toward one goal for a year and feeling like you’ll never get there. It’s easy to lose faith in the process.

And sometimes I do lose faith in the process, faith in my abilities, faith in whether or not I can handle raising her. I lose faith. I do. I feel frustrated and lost.

But Mia always reminds me not to lose faith in her.

Because guess what? It’s not about me.

So is Mia potty trained?

She’s working on it. And she’ll be done when she’s good and ready.

And for me? That’s success.

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