Every day I feel blessed to have this amazing young man as my son. He reminds me that anything is possible.
When Andrew was born, the Dr came into the hospital room and said “I believe your son has Down syndrome”. It didn’t take me months, days or even hours, it was in a split second, that I knew my role as his mom had changed. A calmness came over me and I knew everything would be ok. I didn’t cry or even question why this happened, I just held him tight, kissed his beautiful chubby cheeks and did the only thing that I knew I could and would do, and that was to give Andrew the best life experience and journey that he deserved.
Now, remember that I am still his mom and I did cry over many of the medical challenges that accompany Andrew’s Down syndrome BUT I have never, ever cried simply because of the Down syndrome.
I did however, cry when he graduated from grade 8 with all of his many friends he made over the years of grade school. I cried when he received the Kit La Casse Award that his peers nominated him for because of his great strength to overcome his challenges. I cried when he preformed in front his entire high school as part of a talent show. The crowd cheered and applauded his performance.
I also cried when Essex MPP Taras Natyshak nominated and ultimately presented Andrew with the Queen Diamond Jubilee Award: “Andrew is a community leader by any standards, Natyshak said, “someone who makes a differences and inspires the people around him every day to strive to make a better place for individuals who must overcome different challenges in life. I have been so inspired by you, my friend, and so have, I think everybody who has ever met you. And you continue to inspire our region to reach higher, to be better and to love one another.”
And I know that I cried when Diane Sedore-McCoy, nominated Andrew and was chosen as a Canadian Down syndrome Hero in 2014. Diane wrote “Andrew is a hero, not because he has Down syndrome and because of his business, but because he goes above and beyond to make the world better for those who are facing challenges,” Diane is the grandparent to a child with Down syndrome and she continued to say “With role models like Andrew, I am confident that my granddaughter will have a place in this world and be accepted for who she is”.
As a parent we often wonder how to help our children grow, how to help them prepare for the future and get them ready for the stresses of life and all of it’s challenges. But sometimes, we might forget about the journey itself. I realized very early, that one of my biggest responsibilities to my son, was to help him experience life and not just prepare for it.
Andrew comes to me weekly with new ideas. With something he wants to do or some place he wants to go. He amazes me and it’s my job to help him fulfill those plans, ideas and dreams. And college was one of those dreams he had. If Andrew wanted to attend college, it was my responsibility to help him experience college to the closest approximation of his idea as possible.
Andrew wanted to make new friends, he wanted to hang out in the cafeteria and socialize and to be independent. Andrew wanted to take first aid and cooking classes, he wanted to do this just like others, and this was an idea that I could not ignore or worry about because he was born with Down syndrome.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that many of those experiences are not going to be exactly the same as other “unchallenged” teenagers, and that’s OK. We all need to work with our abilities, build upon them and enjoy the moments that we have. And when i remember back to the day Andrew was born, I’m reminded that sometimes things need to be adjusted, altered or rearranged. And if we believe that dreams can be achieved the way Andrew believe’s, it doesn’t matter how big or small they are, life can be very fulfilling and satisfying.
Andrew graduated from St. Clair College Life Skills Program in June 2014. He has gone onto do many wonderful things within our community for himself and for others and he was honoured on April 26th 2017 with St. Clair College Alumni Of Distinction Award. And with this honour, i once again was brought to tears listening to Andrew deliver his speech. He very proudly stood in front of St. Clair College Alumni, faculty members, students, Dr’s, Politicians, business people friends and family. Andrew graciously thanked Ryan Peebles for nominating him, St. Clair College for helping him make is dreams come true & for giving him the opportunity and support that was needed during his college experience. He finished his speech with the following. “Most of all, I want to thank my mom for always helping me. I love you mom. And the tears came rolling down again
We are all very proud of everything you have accomplished Andrew & I am honoured to be your mom.
Be Strong Rock On