Photo by Antoni Shkraba

From the moment parents cradle their new baby, they expect everything to be wonderful. There are times, however, due to a diagnosis at birth, this is not the case.

When one of my twins was born with Down syndrome, I had many questions and uncertainties. Would I be able to be a good parent to him? There is pressure in our society to be a ‘perfect’ parent to ‘perfect’ children. Is it even possible to be a ‘perfect’ parent when there are so many variables and unknowns? Alex’s imperfect entrance brought many challenges but made me a better parent.

What is a ‘perfect’ parent or child anyway? 

I decided to let go of the illusion of perfection and parent from a place of love instead. Here is what I learned.

When I released the expectation that everything would be wonderful after the birth of our twins, I could find the moments that were wonderful and embrace those. I could feel the love I had for my babies and their older sister. I could accept that the ‘normal’ for our family was going to be different than the ‘normal’ for other families. I was open to learning about how Down syndrome would affect us.

There are many health challenges and learning differences that can come with the Down syndrome label. I could accept a feeling of grief that our son would grow up differently than we had expected. I could feel the grief and let it go, replacing it with acceptance and love for the little baby in my arms. I could accept that he would be perfect in his own way. What I didn’t know then was that he would be the most profound teacher I would ever have, that would change my life in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

The Pressure for Perfection

Looking back now over the past 30 years of raising Alex, I can now see how perfect Alex is. I have learned from him about patience, letting things unfold as they will, and not trying to rush everything. He has taught me what matters in life. Regardless of the challenges he has faced, including having speech that is difficult for even his family to understand and having diabetes, he would wake up every morning until he was about 20 years old and say, “Happy day!” One time, when we were waiting to get on an airplane, he looked around and said, “Mom, God loves everybody here.” Yes, Alex understands life on a different level, and he continues to teach me.

I have learned to see myself as a powerfully imperfect parent, one who is not afraid to accept help from others. Alex’s caregivers help me every day, not only with Alex but also with giving me a break from the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for him. Teachers, therapists, and friends have given me ideas on how to parent Alex more effectively.

Now, I know that my true strength is allowing myself to not be the person who has to ‘fix’ everyone’s problems. Indeed, none of us are here to ‘fix’ anyone else, not even our children. I am here to be the best version of myself I can be. I can allow the strength of others to lift me up. I can be open to knowing my own worthiness, even in my most vulnerable of moments. I will ask for help and allow it in, knowing I am worthy and grateful for everything I receive. Knowing we are strongest together. I now know that I can embrace the power of Alex’s imperfect entrance and find its perfection.

Sending you love and blessings, Lynda Drake

Share This