12 Nov Delving Deep into Thankfulness
by Denise Caudill Irons, NHI Parent and Board Member
As I reflect on the things for which I am grateful, I tend to focus on the superficiality when it comes to my daughter. For instance, I am thankful that she is happy and healthy. I am grateful that she loves going to school, has a good sense of humor, and is friendly and kind. I realize that although I find it difficult to see her developmentally behind her peers, I am thankful that we don’t have to participate in the high-achieving, college bound track. If she were a typical student, I would have been an awful mother regarding education. I would have pushed and pressured her until she cracked or I did. I am grateful that she makes slow and steady progress; that doing her best is completely acceptable and preferred.
As I took the time to truly consider the root of my thankfulness, the gratitude list became more meaningful. First, I am thankful that I am blessed with ignorance. I always ask for needed services and supports for my daughter. Not only do I never hold back, but also I assume that I will be able to get what she needs. Sometimes these requests take time, but I am patient. On the occasions where I am denied, I change directions and alter the plan. I am thankful that it never occurs to me to limit or to temper my requests.
I have heard and read about many parents whose stories involve someone telling them that their child “would never walk, talk, be independent, etc.” Second, I am fortunate that no one ever told me that my daughter would not be able to do something. At least, they never said it to my face. I am not so naïve to think there weren’t a few people who thought it. Because this was never a concern, I am able to maintain high expectations for my daughter. When doubt creeps in from time to time, I work hard not to let it stay very long. Knowing me, I wouldn’t believe the doctor, therapist or teacher anyway. However, it would plant a seed. I am grateful that I have never been tempted to allow someone’s opinion to change the trajectory of my hope and beliefs for my daughter’s future.
In the early years, I was accused of being in denial about my daughter’s differences. I was never in denial. I saw that my daughter was developmentally delayed, that she had limited cognitive, speech, and fine motor skills. I was reminded of this every day. However, my intuition told me that everything was going to be fine. I knew my daughter was going to progress, and she continues to do so. She is going to have an amazing and productive life. It may not match other people’s expectations, but it will match ours. So, the thing that I am most grateful for is having the strength to listen and believe my own intuition and to block out the doubters. There is no crystal ball for any parent. Predictions are just that, predictions; some become true while others do not. For me, it is a waste of energy to worry about negative possibilities. I would rather spend my energy helping my daughter achieve her potential. Overall, I am truly grateful for being in the presence of this amazing person who is teaching me lessons that I would not have learned otherwise.