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Monday, June 24, 2013

Unified...

Did you know that June 23rd marks national Olympics Day? It's mainly interesting to me, because of the nature of what I intended to blog about for my scheduled blogging day, June 24th. But bear with me...as I go back a bit.

When you meet families of children with special needs, oftentimes one of the questions that is invariably asked is when and how you found out about your child’s diagnosis.

I wasn’t a mother who had a prenatal diagnosis, largely because we’d worked so hard to try and have my son that we’d already resolved that we would never do anything but bring him into this world.

Interestingly, I never needed prenatal testing to know more than the medical professionals. I knew, somewhere deep inside with only a mother’s intuition that my son was going to be born with Down syndrome. I knew it before he’d been conceived, I knew it when he was moving in my womb, and I’d tried to stifle those musings, stuff them into a safer corner of my mind, chalk them up to a pregnant woman’s worries.

When he was born, words took on new meanings. One of them being the word ‘special’. I remember the first night I was holding him, looking down at him. The pediatrician had already raised the ‘flag’ of Down syndrome. I was just singing to him and cuddling him. I stopped singing and said to my husband, “he is so special”. My husband reacted instinctively. “You can’t call him that. It has a different meaning.”

That moment gave me pause and still lingers. Here was my special miracle, a gift I’d tried for years to achieve. He was special in every way, and yet somehow in this new journey we'd embarked upon, ‘special’ has a different meaning. It conjures things like special needs and Special Olympics…and though there is nothing but beauty in both of those, when you have a child with special needs, you find you don’t want your child to be special; you want your child to be typical, just like any other child. You no longer dream of Super Man or a Gold medal Michael-Phelps-esque-child…you long for your child to be just like every other child.
"MY"Superman at 10 months old! 

Somewhere over the years, Special Olympics has begun ushering in an era of unification and togetherness. What was once ‘special’ is now ‘unified’. The wonderful town we’ve moved to, offers a Unified Sports program; comprised of children with special needs and typically developing children. Gone are the days of ‘special’ where only children with special needs compete. Now in its place is a sports program that more resembles the world I’d dreamed of for my son—a world where he had friends of all abilities and strengths, a program that is about more than winning or coming in first, but strength, courage, and honor.

Before his birth, I used to imagine that someday my son would be a gold medal Olympic recipient. I hadn’t ever really thought about what sport he’d medal in…it had just been part of the dream.

And yet…at the end of the day, as my son marched around in his opening ceremonies, when his name was called, and he walked up, tipped his head forward to graciously receive his Unified Sports medal, they might as well have awarded him that gold, I’d always dreamed of. It was just one more reminder on this long, ‘special’ journey, of how little I knew about excellence and greatness—until my son had been born.



Question:

So how about you…what has been that magical moment of greatness that you’ve been witness to?

28 comments:

  1. What a lovely blog, Christina! I would say that watching my daughter learn to flip over was my biggest moment of greatness. She was struggling so hard, kicking her little baby legs and grunting. My husband tried to help her and she hollered until he took a step back and she could do it on her own. LOL! Even at four months or so, she knew her own possibilities.

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    1. Lily,
      I love this story! It reminds me of my daughter who never wanted our help, and still doesn't. She's such an independent little thing.

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    2. What a beautiful memory, Lily! I love how you say that; 'she knew her own possibilities'. I still remember the first time, little man rolled over, too. His was more the silent-unsuspecting-what-just-happened-kinda-roll!

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  2. Christi,
    What a great blog! Having two kids, there are magical moments of greatness for each of them. When my son played his solo violin piece in front of a group, I was blown away. He was in middle school and had only been playing for two years. He walked up there with his typical laid back air and killed the piece. I couldn't believe how good he was, and because he had lost his music (Also typical. LOL) he played by memory. That moment had me bursting with pride.

    Then with my daughter, there was the moment in second grade when she had a lead role in the school play. The school has their year-end program at the high school auditorium, and it is packed! People are even standing in the aisles. Anyway, she marched up there with no fear and did a fantastic job.

    I think what made me so proud in both situations was how confident both of them were in their abilities. I was so shy from first grade on and I think I would have dissolved into a puddle if I'd had to do anything like that.

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    1. Great memories, Samantha!!! Are you able to record those moments or do you sit there like I usually do, standing in awe and then the moment is over and I'm left with just the memory in my mind?

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    2. It's hit or miss, Christi. I did record those two moments. :)

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    3. Maybe I'll get better at it!?! ; )

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  3. Fantastic blog, Christi. I think the proudest I've been of my son when we were skiing he saved a young woman from being mowed down by a man on a snowboard. Tweeted and shared.

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    1. My goodness, Ella...I can't even imagine! Did you witness it as it happened?

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  4. For my daughter her calling me to tell me she was accepted to the college she worked so hard to get into. Such happiness in her voice!
    For my son, he works with autistic children and helping to teach one of the boys how to use a computer was his proudest moment. Him telling it to me was mine.
    Wonderful post

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    1. Oh Nancy...what touching moments! I'm so inspired by the work your son does...I always find myself without words to convey my appreciation and awe for those who work with children...especially those children who have special needs. I believe it takes a special teacher with integrity and compassion. You should be very proud...of both of them!!

      Thank you for sharing!

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  5. Any time my 5 year old tries something new and succeeds, I find greatness.

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    1. Well-said...I think that is something I underestimated or maybe didn't anticipate, Hanna...I used to have this fixed vision of greatness, but when you have a child, you find everything they do a minor miracle.

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  6. Christi,

    What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

    Sandra

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  7. Such an amazing story! You are such a wonderful and strong person Christi. Rory is a special boy and lucky to have you for a mother. You and your son are an inspiration for us all!

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    1. That's good of you to say that, Lauren. I don't feel like a remarkable mom. I remember though when he was born, and I made the decision to not return to work because of his diagnosis resolving to give him every opportunity that I could...and yet, oftentimes, it still feels like I'm not doing enough.

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  8. That was a lovely story, Christi. Hmmm...moments of greatness? Watching my Nephew Monster grow up has provided many of them. I've always loved the special Monster Boy words he has for things, but hearing him say the proper word, pronounced the right way? That gives me chills, and at the same time reminds me he is growing up way too fast. It won't be much longer that he talks about ambleeances and pleece-men.

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    1. I always love your stories about 'Nephew Monster' and I always love the moniker you've given him. : ) On a side note, he is a very lucky nephew...you're so good to him. Great aunts are hard to come by, you know!

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    2. He's my Monster because of Monsters, Inc. When he was little and we would watch that, he'd decide to try to scare me. Usually, he put black olives on each of his fingertips, held them up to his face, and said "Rawr!" while we both giggled hysterically. Because of that, he will always be my Monster. :)

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    3. I lOVE it!!! I must confess...I did wonder!!!!

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  9. I love the shift to unified! Thanks for a great blog!

    Thankfully, life is full of magic moments. Holding my baby sister for the first time when I was young, seeing my husband at the end of the aisle at our wedding, all the laughs we've shared through the years, the birth of my sons, all their 'first' moments, watching them talk with my grandpa about how things were when he was young, sharing my favorite books with them and talking, talking talking about them...there's so much to appreciate!

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    1. I do, too, Deb!

      And thank you for sharing these personal memories!

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  10. What a heart-warming story, Christi. You have been given a very special gift from God and your bond with your son is one that can never be parted. Don’t be afraid to use the word “special” because that means you were chosen to experience this closeness that many of us don’t have. Thank you for sharing and getting the word out. As with Sarah Palin’s young son, let the world know how proud you are and, hopefully, we can educate morons who still use words like retarded. Disgusting.

    Magic moments in our lives are ones that happen and we don’t always know how magic it is at the time. I remember the look and smile my husband and I gave one another as we left the church after being married 46 years ago; the first time I laid eyes on each of my sons and my grandchildren; and most recently, the sight of my beautiful granddaughter as she came down the aisle to get married followed a few days later of my handsome grandson as he graduated from Marine Boot Camp. My heart is full and I am so very lucky and blessed.

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    1. Connie,
      I don't think I could have said that better than you. When my son was first born, I used to hate when people said that this was God's plan and soon, however, I realized that he was sent to me because he needed to change me in a way I desperately needed changing or, maybe it would be better to say saving. He saved me by showing me a new perspective on love, laughter, and beauty.
      Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories. I always wonder what it's like the moment a grandparent first sets sight on their grandchild...if it's the same or different than when you see your child.
      And thank you so much for stopping by!

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  11. Thank you, Christi! You and your son both are very special because you were meant to have a love and relationship that will be closer than other parents can never imagine. It’s hard for me to express but I hope you understand what I mean.

    Seeing our grandchildren for the first time was different from seeing our children for the first time in that the succession of generations becomes so clear and the pride of our child for bringing this beautiful life into the world to care for and knowing that they can do it surrounds your heart with a glow.

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    1. Connie,
      You just made me misty-eyed. What a sweet sentiment. :)

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  12. Very heartwarming, Christi. I hate to admit this but I don't remember a lot of the magic moments with my kids because I had three, ages three and under. I remember my oldest the most and how I couldn't get that kid to speak to me until she was three. I would hear her talk to her sister, then as soon as I entered the room she'd shut it down. She wouldn't talk in front of me! So when she finally did, it was definitely a magic moment. :)

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