This is a long post. So, I’m going to give you the take-away points right now:
Take Away Points:
- Examine and question the way it’s always been done. Ask yourself, “Is that true? Do we have to do it that way?”
- It’s okay to question others who have direct control over your child’s education or therapies
- Observe and facilitate discovery for your child’s interest
- Differences play a role in our given talent
- Pay attention to your intuition
- Trust and have faith in your feelings and ideas
- “Teach” your child by modeling your beliefs and living your passions
- It’s okay to do it differently
- Have meaningful discussions with your child and ask for her input
- Release guilt and self-judgment for not “doing” life like others
- Share your passions with your child
- Become a learner and discoverer with your child
- Be inspired as your child shines as his unique self
(I originally wrote a version of “I Have a Dream” on the Different iz Good website in 2010. I was called to combine this with two other blog posts from 2011 into a new post with updated information. The updated information is in italics. There is a bit of repetition. I wanted to leave the original articles mostly in tact and this is the reason for the repetition.)
I do not claim to know the One Way, or One Size fits all approach to living a joyful, peaceful life. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. These are simply my thoughts to share for those with whom it resonates. xoxo
I Have a Dream
“Whatever you dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” – Goethe
I have a dream of a world where people like my daughter Lillian Darnell, who have intellectual disabilities, genetic differences, chromosome abnormalities, are not pigeonholed into jobs that don’t reveal and let shine their uniqueness. Jobs that do not give them the opportunity to share their unique and different view of the world.
I have a dream of a world where those closest to these magnificent people and those who are entrusted to educate them shift their perception. A world in which we become aware of not what they can’t do or what they are doing wrong or different. A world where educators don’t attempt to make them fit into a cookie cutter system that is so archaic even “typical” kids don’t fit in.
**Update: As an example of the above, during an IEP meeting when Lillian was in the 2nd or 3rd grade, I was told of their concern that Lillian was still not drawing proportionate stick people. The first thoughts that ran through my mind were, “Are you kidding me? Why on earth would we be focused on changing something that is unique about her?” I explained to them that this was something unique about Lillian and very well may be part of the gift she is to share with others.” I told them they could stop being concerned about that.
Can you imagine what educators would have said to Picasso’s parents? “We are deeply concerned about the way he draws people? We cannot get him to draw proportionate stick people.” Please don’t misunderstand. I know these therapists and educators had Lillian’s best interest in their hearts. My perspective is simply different than their perspective.
**Update: A world where we question the way it’s supposed to be done as that’s the way it’s always been done. A world where we examine our own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs and ask, “Is that true? Does it have to be done that way”? A world where we let ourselves become learners and discoverers right along side our children.**
A world where we open our eyes and discover what they can do, what they are good at doing, and what they like to do. A world where we notice what excites them, what fuels their passions. A world where we take the initiative to mentor them to cultivate this, shape and mold it into a way for them to earn a living for themselves.
Whether that be working for someone else or . . . being an entrepreneur. A world in which we, and they, don’t feel guilty or wrong about using differences to their advantage in life. Our differences most likely play a role in our given talents.
**Update: I have since expanded this dream to include all children and people like my son, Thomas Darnell, who are high functioning, extremely bright, have a deep thirst for knowing “why” and are not okay with “because I said so” as an explanation, who are empathic, and greatly sensitive to the energies of others.**
“Each of us has a Different gift that lies within us. Some amongst us just need a little extra help in uncovering that gift so that we can share it for the benefit of the world. ” Camilla
(The following was written in 2011 as the last chapter in the “D iz for Different” book)
Z is for Zig Zag
Conventional wisdom says “do it this way, this is the way it’s always been done.” I am the type of person who questions conventional wisdom. I pause to think about whether the way it’s always been done is really the right way for me and my family.
Conventional wisdom says that the best path for Lillian is to attend traditional public school to benefit from what she’s entitled to according to federal laws and what’s established in her IEP. That worked for us through fourth grade, but it doesn’t work now. **Update** – Lillian is now in tenth grade by traditional school standards.
I simply believe with all my being that this young lady will not follow any conventional route in her life, or in her career. I believe she will be self-employed, and I don’t believe she will reach her full potential staying in a traditional public school. Of course, I will accept whatever career path she chooses, but for now, I choose us to zag instead of zig.
I’m not saying that we should always zag when others zig. But, that we pay attention when something inside us is saying, “not so fast there, find a different way,” or “don’t keep doing that.” We may hear these messages, but dismiss them due to doubt, fear, or lack of faith. As these messages spring from our heart, we find that we have invited judgments of our own and others into our mind telling us we are crazy for thinking that way.
**Update: I also believe Thomas will not follow any conventional route in his education and life. In fact, we don’t follow a conventional route as a family. I single parent Thomas and Lillian and have for the past 9 years. We haven’t owned a television since 2008.
We live in an 800 square foot, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom condo. I haven’t used a microwave in 3 years. I hand wash our dishes. I value good quality food over the newest or designer clothing, shoes, cars, furniture, jewelry, or electronics; and I share that value with Thomas and Lillian. We go for many, many walks together. We talk about food, the differences in quality of food, and the ingredients in our food.
We read a lot. I thoughtfully choose the books we read aloud together and they choose their own books. We also have a movie night once per week using a projector and a Macbook Pro. These are also thoughtfully chosen and we have started taking turns choosing a movie from the selection I check out from the library. I share the books and movies as a reference for others in the Book and Movie Musings section.
Since Thomas was 1 year old we have been going to the library every 2 or 3 weeks. We live as a team rather than a dictatorship. Mostly, I am the team leader, yet I give them many opportunities to lead. We have letting go burning ceremonies every quarter. We continually talk about why we are here, what are our goals, how are we doing personally and as a family, we make gratitude lists, create yearly vision boards for each of us and one as a family, write “compliment” notes for each other, and we openly discuss and practice mindfulness and emotional connection. We are not typical … and we like it.**
I wrote this when Lillian was 10 years old. She is now 14 years old. I homeschooled her the year I originally wrote this. She re-entered school the following year and was there for two and a half years. Here’s a bit of the story on how that happened.
She has been “homeschooled” for the past year and a half. In January, without my having searched for it, the term unschooling and information about it kept coming across my awareness. After reading much about it, I realized I had been unschooling Lillian all along and just didn’t know it.
Lillian self leads her learning and discovery. I take the opportunity when it’s presented to facilitate that learning. She has always loved to write, draw, and paint. You can see that as far back as 2007 in the first blog we began titled, Pink Elephant Books. I knew even back then that she and I would author books.
Currently, she blogs on her own site at LillianDarnell.com. Her writing is becoming deeper and richer by the day. It has been magical to be a part of and watch her blossom. She is absolutely thriving by being allowed to focus on her passions and interest.
She loves tracking the weather and has loved it since probably about 2007 or 2008. When we need to know what to expect with the weather, we ask Lillian. If she doesn’t already know, she’ll look it up in less than 5 minutes. She says she has a weather sniffer nose and she can smell the rain coming and other weather conditions.
I share my enthusiasm and love of nature, photography, mindfulness, and emotional connection with Lillian and her brother, Thomas. And, Lillian has naturally become interested in these subjects also. Not because I sat her down and taught her the names of everything. But because she has witnessed me living it and my genuine love of these things. Thomas and Lillian love our walks and time spent outdoors.
Thomas sporadically blogs on his website (ThomasADarnell.com), posts items for sale that he has created, and is about to become a published author. He completed a 365 photo a day project that he came up with and decided to do on his own. That is being made into a book that I will co-author with him. Tentatively titled, “Grand Adventures of the Biggest Little Photographer”.**
(This next section was written in 2011 and a version of this later became the “O” Chapter in the, “D iz for Different” book.)
O is for Observe
“Most people see what is, and never see what can be.” -Albert Einstein
Observing, paying attention, being aware of the present moment. What’s happening, who you are with, are you having a conversation? Are you really being present for the conversation or are you thinking about all those bills that are due or what you’re making for dinner or what happened on the last episode of your favorite show.
How will we guide our kids, with special needs and “typically developing” kids, into a fruitful, joyful and peaceful future if we are not present for them? Observe their likes, dislikes, what are they good at doing, favorite hobbies and maybe they have topics or interests they seem obsessed with . . . the weather, the time, making lists, making a plan and sticking to it.
Observe these and then use these qualities to their advantage in life. They like these things for a reason. It’s not up to us to figure out why they like or don’t like something or why they are obsessed with a topic.
**Update: The very quality that we may find extremely annoying, could be the key to their joyful future. Let’s observe, be present and give them every single opportunity we can to blossom and use the special and unique gifts they have.
Stand back. Observe. Be inspired as their personality shines and they become their own person with the loving ingredients you have added along the way.
I help to support my family with my writings. I share my writings for free for the benefit of others. If you benefited from this writing, would you like to toss a tip in the love offering “bucket”? Oceans of gratitude … xoxo
Dreaming, Zig Zagging, and Observing,
See It. Share It. BE IT … Spread Love Everywhere You Go!
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