So NOT Normal

Today is World Down Syndrome Day, and in honor of this I would like to dedicate this post to all the children who don't fit into the "normal" mold.

Our "normal" Mother/Daughter photo

It has been almost 20 years since I was that scared 17 year old girl who gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Seventeen is pretty young to start raising a child on your own. Seventeen is still a "child" in many ways, and with many life lessons yet to learn. Seventeen is when I became a single mother. Becoming a parent at any age comes with its own set of struggles, but becoming a parent at 17 takes parenting struggles to a whole new level. However, at 11:29 am, on a Monday morning following Easter Sunday, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, chubby faced, "normal" baby girl. This is where I cue the record scratch!

Normal? Corinne is anything and everything but "normal." Oh sure, I had dreams of decorating a princess pink bedroom with trunks of "dress up" clothes, play make-up, and curlers... but Corinne... she just wasn't having any of that! Trying to put a dress on that kid would make on-lookers think I was putting her into some sort of torture device! Not that Corinne was a tomboy, because she wasn't that either. That too would have been too "normal" but just in a different category. Corinne... well, she has just always wanted to be free. Free to be who she wanted, and free to do what she wanted. Which also meant that the idea of sitting in a classroom, diligently paying attention to lessons, studying, organizing her thoughts, and doing homework... well that was way too "normal" too.

1st day of school, and ironically not smiling!

Each and every day was a struggle. A struggle to get her to study and pass the next test, a struggle to get her to focus, even a struggle to just get her to turn in her assignments that were already completed. I spent years in and out of teacher conferences, educational planning meetings, counseling sessions... try this method, do this trick, buy this organizer, sign her up for these extra lessons, use this reprimand system, no wait...use this reward system... on and on it went, year after year full of old and new struggles, lots of frustration, and buckets of tears. Why can't my kid just be NORMAL?!!!

The answer was always because she is Corinne.  The girl who came out of the womb with a drawing pencil in her hand. Corinne couldn't sit down and focus on dry lessons because she was too busy staring out the window daydreaming of her next creative adventure. She couldn't focus on fractions because her mind was too focused on building other worlds. Most parents have to baby proof their homes when their children start to crawl. Not me. I never had to move any knick knack, or rearrange bottom shelves, or put safety clips on cupboards and drawers. I just had to sit her down with a coloring book and crayons, and turn on Barney. Sitting down to do homework was like trying to run up hill against the wind, but put a Harry Potter book in her hand and she couldn't put it down. Trying to get her to complete a school project was like pulling teeth, but put a pair of scissors in her hand and she would give herself, and her friends, amazingly stylish new hairdo. Tell her to write a report and it was like the world was coming to an end, but put a pencil in her hand, and she would draw you something truly amazing that far surpassed the art skills for her age... at any age. 
Trying to be a single parent to a child who excelled at all things artistic, but continuously struggled day after day with academic school work, was both a blessing, and a curse. Had I known then that there are schools out there for creative children like her, I would have done everything in my power to get her into one. But our struggles have made us both grow, and Corinne is now, and has always been, one amazingly cool kid!
Every parent has struggles. I do not pretend to know how, or even relate to a parent who has struggles that are way different than mine. What I can relate to is getting dirty looks from other parents, and teachers because my child isn't a straight A student, which ultimately means I am somehow failing as a parent. I can relate to being told how to do this or do that to "improve" my child. I can relate to being an outsider as "That young single mother who can't control her child enough to pay attention in class," and I can relate to those who have children who break the "normal" mold, and love their children for the wonderful person they are.
I was 17 and pregnant, and I chose to give my child life. Even if someone came to me at the beginning and said "There is a genetic test we can do to see if your child would be normal in all ways" and I found out then that Corinne would always struggle with school, I would STILL have chosen to give her life! Yes, parenting is hard work, yes, there will be struggles and complications, and yes, your child will most likely be someone much different than what you had planned. But, each and every child is a blessing and deserves the right to live a life full of wondrous surprises, adventures, and lots of love! 90% of children with Down syndrome are aborted. Why? Because many people have a misinformed idea of what it means to be a parent. Most think having a child with Down syndrome is a lot scarier than it really is. And most people think having a "normal" child will be easy.

I will end this post with a quote by an amazing mother who continues to inspire millions each and every day:

"Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted, and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child, and be loved by the child. From our children's home in Calcutta alone, we have saved over 3,000 children from abortions. These children have brought such love and joy to their adopting parents, and have grown up so full of love and joy!" - Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

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