{apples and oranges}

You just can’t compare the two.

This age old saying rings so very true the more I grow and learn.

Bernadette is finally walking. It is one her most exciting milestones thus far. It has been thrilling to see her build more strength and confidence and progress forward in all of her milestones, but this one in particular has been a long time coming.

We have worked tirelessly with her. Doing exercises to build her muscles and tackle her low tone, all things I never even considered when my other two daughters were learning to walk. Both distant memories now, I can hardly remember a time when they were not RUNNING everywhere.

Bernadette has been getting a ton of physical therapy weekly, twice per week actually. Her therapist has been patient and consistent with her and with me for that matter. I am sure my constant questioning as to when she might walk required an extra dose of patience.

I had to let it go early on. It was too much to constantly worry about it. But I will be the first to admit, every time I saw kids younger than her walking it stung a little. Not that I wasn’t deeply happy for them, I was merely curious as to why my kiddo wasn’t walking.

Out and about, the two most frequent questions I get asked are, where does she get her red hair and how old is she. A hairstylist recently informed me red hair has to come from both sides, can anyone confirm that? I completely believe her! I just don’t recall learning that in beauty school. Genetics are fascinating, aren’t they!? Both sides of our family have red hair so it does make sense.

Here’s where it gets funny. I share her age and I often get met with a look of disbelief. And usually a comment about how they thought she was much younger and how they rarely get a toddler’s age wrong. The follow up question is usually about walking. Can she walk? Or, is she walking yet?

Up until more recently, I would smile and simply say, “Not yet!” My eyes bulging out of their sockets trying to remain optimistic in my response.

Now that she is beginning to walk more, people still tend to second guess her age but follow up with some comment about her petite size.

I agree. She is petite which is no wonder why she looks younger than she actually is. Coupled with her being a new walker and it is generally surprising to someone who perhaps does not have much experience with a person with Down syndrome. By nature, people with Down syndrome can be shorter in stature. I guess I didn’t expect her to be so small right from the start.

I have recognized over the past several months my feelings of being offended came from my own insecurities of her not walking. I deeply desired her to be walking and running with her sisters as quickly as she possibly could. Partly because that is the naturally progression and also as part of my own pride, willing her to be more like her neuro-typical piers as a way of “fitting in”. Funny, now that we are closer to three years in with her and in more recent days I have become perfectly ok with where she is at, differences and all. It’s part of my journey, part of what I am learning as a mom with a child with different abilities.

Sitting with insecurities also meant constantly wondering what I was lacking to help her walk. I’m no physical therapist. I attempted to work with Bernadette as best as I could on a daily basis on all of the things that our physical therapist was showing us. But the rest was up to Bernadette. Not me. Nor anyone anyway. No matter how often myself or her cardiologist would will her to walk.

Sure enough, the day is closer and closer. She is walking so much more than she ever has. It is a complete joy to watch her learn and a celebration in my own heart in letting go of any type of measuring system I am tempted to uphold her to.

And that’s just it. So much of this journey has been about letting go and being comfortable in the different. Confident in where Bern is at with all of it. Being stuck in the cycle of comparison doesn’t do anyone a bit of good.

When I walk confidently ahead knowing Berni is exactly who God created her to be and is exactly where she should be, I am so much more relaxed. And let’s be honest, when I am more relaxed I am a whole lot more fun to be around.

It is exhausting constantly having my guard up worrying about what other people are thinking or what they are going to say or even what they have said. It’s too much to worry about the standard others are measuring her against. At the end of the day, she shouldn’t be measured up against any one person or thing. She should be accepted for exactly her, a lesson that I am thankful she has taught me and has been graciously patient in my learning curve.

Time and time again, I have caught myself in my own mind even comparing my two older girls to one another. Especially when my middle doesn’t do something when her older sister did. Or, even seeing their friends and classmates and catching my breath with wide eyes on my face seeing them doing things my girls are not quite doing at that moment in time. When I can catch myself, recognize I am in the comparison trap, it’s much easier to get out. To acknowledge why I am feeling overwhelmed or panicked really, and letting it go, fully confident they are where they are.

My challenge is this, from one mama bear to whoever is reading this. If we could be ok with where our kids are at and create space for those kids who are progressing at a different pace, we will naturally create an environment of acceptance and inclusion. There is no need to compare our kids against one another. What is important is loving them for exactly who they are and encouraging them ahead. How much more of a peace-filled environment that would create for everyone!

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