21 lessons from Trisomy 21

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21 lessons I learned from my girl with an extra chromosome.

1.  Running is not about getting out of the house on time, or trying to squeeze in extra errands in a day, or getting that promotion, or chasing dreams. Sometimes I feel like we’re chasing life itself. All of those things can wait. Running is REALLY about feeling the wind in your hair, it’s about chasing butterflies, feeling the grass between your bare toes. These are the things that are worth running for.

2. Every single morning should start with a hug, a kiss, or both.

3. Being goofy is an absolute necessity.

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4. Life is too short to stay angry. I’m always amazed at how quickly Annie can bounce back from being hurt, upset, or let down. Her tantrums never last longer than a few moments, and I have been working on following her lead. Grudges are worthless, jealousy foolish, and no good can come from stewing anger. These emotions are real and I believe it is important to express them and let our children express them, but only so that forgiveness and understanding can take over and make room for what matters, LOVE.

5. Swimming is good for the soul. Watching your child experience the joys playing in the water brings is even better for the soul.

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6. Even when the world seems like a terrible place filled with hate and horrible people, all you have to do is look around to realize there are really, really good people in the world too. People who don’t pass judgement, people who care not only for themselves, people that will go out of their way to make a stranger’s day. These are the people to focus your energy on. They are the ones that remind us that good always outweighs the bad.

7. All achievement, even the tiniest successes, are worth celebrating.

8. A simple and genuine smile radiates more beauty than society’s standards of beauty ever will.

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9. Blood doesn’t define family. Family comes from unexpected places. And is just as important as blood.

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10. Hard work and determination pay off even when things seem hopeless. Annie has had therapy at least three times a week since she was three months old. There were days after sessions that I would feel defeated, convinced she would never walk. I would cry at the park watching her disappointment in not being able to play like the other kids. She’s been walking for over a month now, and spinning and twirling and attempting to climb and run. When she was a newborn, I thought she’d never nurse, she kept trying everyday and after two months she was nursing like a pro. Annie reminds me almost everyday to never give up. She is evidence that “slow and steady” can “win the race.”

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11. Dancing and music is as important a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth.

12. If you are sitting around a table with even just one other person, it’s a party and a joyous occasion. In our house, if there are glasses in front of us, we toast, we cheers, we shout in joy. EVERY SINGLE TIME!! Always initiated by Annie.

13. There’s always time for a quick hello or a handshake or a hug. And if not, it’s worth being late for.

14. Baths aren’t just about personal hygiene, they’re meant to unwind, relax and enjoy. A good bath is not over when you are clean, but when your skin is wrinkled.

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15. The most important things in life cannot be measured.

16. Never forget to stop and smell the flowers. Too often we walk right past life’s gifts.

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17. Stop and acknowledge someone who looks sad, small gestures can mean a lot.

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18. Even when people let you down, you shouldn’t let it change you. I have watched hundreds of times as my daughter waves or reaches out to someone only to be ignored. And though I can sense the disappointment in her eyes when someone doesn’t return the hello or accept the handshake, it never stops her from moving on to the next person.

19. Being perfect has little to do with what you’d expect. Perfection is being 100% true to yourself. It is not trying to be something you’re not. It’s allowing yourself to be a become the person you are and accepting all “flaws.”

20. Life cannot be planned, it just happens mostly out of our control. And therefore is best experienced living moment to moment.

21. Sometimes what we at one time thought were life’s greatest bumps end up being life’s most glorious gifts!

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I could write a list of 21 lessons I’ve learned from Annie, 21 more times and still not be done. I want to particularly point out that most of these lessons have absolutely nothing to do with my daughter having Down Syndrome, they have more to do with the person she is. That’s what’s most important to be aware of when it comes to Down Syndrome. She is a person, Down Syndrome does not define her. It is something she has that is just a small part of our lives.

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