It’s so hard to now look at our beautiful 4-year-old and think that we were absolutely devastated just one week after she was born… You see… we had spent the nine months leading up to our firstborn’s birth planning for her future – we had envisioned her playing on Daddy’s basketball team, singing beautifully like her aunts, being smart, having a high-profile career, becoming a wife and mother, and the list goes on and on as most first-time parents plan as they eagerly await their entrance into parenthood. But this all came crashing down when that dreaded phone call came from the doctor as I cradled my sweet one-week-old Cayla Joy: “The tests confirm that your daughter has Down syndrome.” The tears began falling immediately, and I don’t think they stopped for several days after getting this phone call. But I remember getting a card from one of our family members, and it couldn’t have been worded any better for our sweet angel:
“Maybe she will look like you, talk like you, smile like you… maybe she’ll sing, paint, or dance like you… but she’ll dream her very own dreams. You cannot give her her dreams for those will be hers alone.”

We quickly realized that our main source of grief was in the loss of our dreams, our selfish dreams. And as selfish as they were, they seemed so real and so hard to give up. Yes, she has her own dreams, and although these are now very different than what we had initially dreamt for her, her dreams are far better than anything we could have ever imagined! She might still be a part of her father’s basketball team, but she now might be a manager or cheerleader. She might not have the same outstanding voice as either of her aunts, but this girl has the sweetest voice ever when she sings “Jesus Loves Me” or “Silent Night” with her whole heart. She might not be the smartest kid in her class, but let me tell you, this girl is extremely smart and actually often gets herself into trouble by being so smart. She may not have a high-profile career as the world defines it, but wow, I sure hope she continues making people smile every time she enters a room – possibly the most influential greeter or sacker at Hy-Vee or a dancer or musician on her piano or violin. She’s already influenced so many people through her young life already, and I’m so excited to see what God has in store for her future. No matter where God leads her, she’ll definitely continue furthering God’s kingdom wherever she lands! Who knows if she’ll ever become a wife, and it’s unlikely that she’ll ever have kids, but she’ll be the best friend, sister, and family member to whoever she’s blessed to share life with – but most importantly, she’ll have the BEST Bridegroom anyone could ever have!

I’ll certainly not try to tell you that it is easy raising an extremely strong-willed and stubborn little girl. She comes with her fair share of challenges, including aggressive behaviors with others at times, the strongest little arms and legs when attempting to have her blood drawn with her many medical visits, her quick running away in the parking lot or at the store, her stubbornness in getting her nails cut or her hair washed, etc. But we all come with challenges, right? And who’s to say that her challenges are worse than mine? They’re just different.

And let me tell you, the ways that our angel just seems to be so in-tune with God is simply amazing. She seems to know who needs an extra hug or who needs an encouraging “Good Job!” She’s the best coach and cheerleader around! We recently heard one of her teachers say that she simply needs to look at Cayla when she’s having a bad day, and Cayla will bring a smile to her face. She seems to exude happiness and a smile everywhere she goes. The way she raises her hands to praise God, as well as the way she belts out praise songs, melts our hearts every time. And the way she says “I love you” and cuddles right into your chest makes you feel special and so loved by this incredible little girl.

No, we cannot give her her dreams, as those would have been so much less than the dreams God placed in her heart… But it’s so neat to now share those same dreams with her, and we know we are better people and parents because of the wonderful ways God has been transforming us through this tiny treasure He gave us four years ago.

Cayla shows off her musical skills:

One Response to "Her dreams: a family’s unexpected parenting journey"

  • Sara says:

    What a beautiful young girl! I’ve struggled with the idea of having a child with a disability and the heartache that might come with it – but your story has given me hope and a new perspective.Thank you!

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