A few weeks ago we had some friends over for a cookout. They are ten months behind us on the "Down syndrome journey", and have become very important people in our lives. Their youngest daughter just celebrated her first birthday and we spent some time talking about milestones. At one point, they asked Mike and I how we thought year two compared to year one.
It is hard to believe that soon we will be celebrating Charlotte's second birthday. I have spent time since that night pondering their question; how has year two been different? Looking back, if I had to define year one with just one word, I would choose the word survival. Year one was about putting one foot in front of the other. It is about doing what you have to in order to get through some really dark times (even if it entails eating pounds of chocolate!) and realizing that whatever you are feeling is okay and there is no timeline to feeling better.
As year two comes to a close for us, the word that best describes the past almost twelve months is growth. Lots and lots of growth. For Charlotte and for me. Tonight I will share with you how Charlotte has grown this past year, tomorrow I will be back with part two as I tackle the task of dissecting my own personal growth this past year.
Charlotte has grown...
My baby girl who was a new crawler at her first birthday party and just starting to pull herself up on furniture is now becoming a steady walker who's favorite activity is to climb. She toddles down the street every afternoon to meet her big sister at the bus stop and follows her siblings up the ladder of the tree fort in the backyard during outside play. She is getting quick on her feet and I feel we may have a runner in the near future.
I sat down tonight with Charlotte before bed and helped her do a three piece puzzle. I love her determination as she tries to wiggle each piece into the correct spot, and how, even if it is slightly off, she claps for herself and exclaims "ta-da." She loves to color with her big sister, and while side-walk chalk should be fun in theory, it usually ends up in her mouth. She is working hard on putting on her own socks and shoes (though this is a long way off, she is super determined!) and she is obsessed with putting on and taking off hats.
This year, Charlotte has learned to communicate in ways that I can't put into words. She has taught me that communicating is so much more than speaking. She signs, she points, she approximates words. She laughs, she giggles, she cries, she squeals, and she screams. She understands most of our requests, and follows directions when she feels like it (she is almost two, after all!). And even though at times it saddens me a bit to think about the language Katherine and Will had acquired by age two, I know Charlotte will get there on her own time. And until then, I appreciate watching her daily growth of communication skills.
To me, this has been the most important area of growth this year. My girl has a personality, a big personality. She is stubborn and at times sassy just like her big sister, but yet extremely flexible and funny like her brother. I see bits of Mike in her, and at times I see myself. She has has become an integral part of our family dynamic, joining in conversations at dinner time and making all of us laugh on a daily basis. Katherine is saddened if Charlotte isn't awake for her to say goodbye to before she leaves for school, and Will greets her every morning with "Hi baby girl, did you have a good sleep?" Charlotte has recently started giving hugs complete with a "back pat." She runs to the door waving and yelling "dadadadada" as Mike walks in the door from work, and is easily becomes upset when others cry or fight.
To sum it up; Charlotte is fun, cute, sassy, funny, compassionate, stubborn...sounds like a pretty typical 2 year-old doesn't it?! In fact, that is what I am realizing; "more alike than different" has a lot of truth behind it. More on that tomorrow night (or the next night, I have to work tomorrow night and I don't like to put too much blogging pressure on myself!)...
To be continued...