This beautiful writing is done by guest contributor Dawn Patrice Garrett. I am honored to include her work and to count her as a friend and a mother I greatly admire.
When Cody was young and Ty was still a baby, I very much thought Cody may – at some point – develop typically. I have virtually no idea why I thought that, because every milestone was either extremely delayed or entirely missed altogether. The book that gave the “guidelines” got thrown away around year one. Literally. Even with the milestones being so extremely off, and Ty catching up with and then “passing” Cody in those early years, I somehow still thought “Hey, you never know…things could totally change one day!”
I don’t blame myself for thinking that back then. I don’t blame any parent for hoping, wishing, or believing anything they hope, wish, and believe for. That is every parent’s right to dream for their child, in whatever way they choose to dream. After all, dreams are free. With that said, I remember the exact day I realized Cody would have a different path in life.
It was a routine appointment at the DEC (Developmental Evaluation Center), on an ordinary day. My mom was with me that particular day. I don’t remember exactly why we were there together because she, Cody’s dad, and myself would all take turns taking him to his therapies back then. And he went often, as he did all three therapies available: speech, physical, and occupational. On that day, though, I vividly remember a question my mom asked. She asked, “When will Cody catch up with his peers?”
The answer that was given hit me like a ton of bricks in that moment. I had to walk out of the room because of how upset I got. You see, I had thought there was going to be this certain day that “that” would happen. That he would in fact catch up and then we would move forward accordingly. I was going to definitely pencil that date in, on my calendar. “Cody will catch up on Tuesday, day whatever…” I literally thought that was a possibility and perhaps I should have understood more by that point or knew better. Or maybe I was in denial. I am not really sure. I just know for whatever reason, I didn’t truly understand the gravity of the situation until that appointment while speaking with that one doctor.
Acceptance is a wonderful thing. However, I use that word cautiously and without the intent to ever diminish anyone’s individual journey or process. Acceptance as far as the core of a person’s being is what I am referring to. I say little when people suggest those with intellectual disabilities, that they are looking for a cure for their child or loved one. I say little because people are in different places of the process. I have no place to judge their journey, and most especially no place to question their motive as I haven’t walked in their shoes.
With that said and at this stage in my own life, I refuse to do anything except for to completely accept Cody as the individual he is. He has a heart that holds no grudge and a tongue that speaks no harm – of which, no cure is needed. If there is sickness, anxiety, hurt, sadness (and there has been) then yes, I pray for hope in the healing of those areas because those are painful things. But not healing to ever change who he is as an individual, though. For him to be anyone other than Cody.
There is absolutely nothing wrong to pencil in expectations and goals…even dreams. Those things are valuable; they can be life-giving; and they are very important to one’s individual journey.
Just know that acceptance should always be written in permanent marker.