Liam turned nineteen this month. Wow! Looking back, you can truly see how hard he has worked to get where he is today.
He planned his whole birthday out this year. He wanted to eat pizza at a restaurant, get a specific cake, and have his step-dad sing Happy Birthday to him. He asked for cash as a gift so he could purchase some things online for his racing games.
Liam doing all this by himself was an amazing feat all on its own. But when I reflected at the end of the day, what struck me the most was that he had an awesome, relaxed day! No tension, no overwhelm, no meltdowns, no asking for a break alone, no having to leave places early or using overt calming strategies to get through things.
It seemed so strange to me, and yet it was awesome! There have been plenty of birthdays or other special days where things have not gone well and where we needed to just let go of expectations, curb our disappointment and move on.
It made me feel grateful for all the people who have been a part of his journey and our story. His family, his doctors, his therapists, his teachers, his instructional aides, his friends, his encouragers, his church family, and even strangers who take the time to truly see him and treat him like he matters.
It also made me feel grateful for all the effort he has put in, on days he was excited, on days he was tired, on days he was happy, on days he was overwhelmed, on days he liked, and on days he just wanted to go back to bed.
I know that this is just one day in a chorus of many others, but this one day I got to see a glimpse of the man Liam is becoming and how all the “blood, sweat, and tears” we spilled together over the years have shaped him into the person he is.
Liam is defying his odds. He is defying them with determination, hope, and consistent effort. He teaches me daily that “you are enough” just as you are. That each person in our world is valuable and irreplaceable. That each of us was created to live a life of purpose, meaning and joy no matter what challenges we face.
So my challenge to you is to look for the things you CAN be grateful for today, this week, this month, this year. Be willing to let go of expectations, curb disappointment, and move on. But most of all, be open to watching your child’s story unfold and celebrate all the wins (big and small) along the way.