By Jamie Huff
Here are some words that come to mind when I think of the past year: busy, adjustment, laughter, tired and sweet.
One year ago, we arrived home from Hong Kong with our newly adopted daughter, who is now 6 years old. We named her Lyric Grace, not only because she loves music, but because somehow we knew that she would embody “words to a song about grace” to everyone who would meet her. And she does!
Lyric was blessed with an extra chromosome…the 21st chromosome, to be exact. She has Down syndrome. Yes, there is a reason she is a labeled “special needs;” however, more importantly, she has special big hugs for everyone, a special personality and a special place in our family forever.
So, what’s a day like with a child who has Down syndrome? Pretty much like any typical family…with some sugar and spice added in!
Our day begins between 4:30 and 6:00 a.m. when Lyric decides to wake up and come to our bed. My husband, Johnny, and I are so tired when we go to bed each night, but when this little girl climbs between us each morning, we can’t help but smile. We know this special time each morning is important for bonding and attachment. She always greets us with a big “I Yuv You!” Sometimes she drifts back to sleep, but other times she wiggles, giggles, talks and tries to engage us in a tickle war.
Johnny gets up early to take a shower, so that he can take over her care (she has to be supervised every second!). He makes her breakfast while I get ready for the day. Then I take over. I eat breakfast while she colors or plays an educational app on my iPad, then I help her get dressed, brush her teeth (after she has her turn brushing), “help” do her hair, put in her eye drops, clean and put on her glasses …… whew…then we’re done
Next, it’s on to school. She LOVES school! She has acquired a lot of English language vocabulary during the past year and she receives some speech and occupational therapy at school. Her K-2 Life Skills class—11 students and 3 teachers—is a very special bunch. She is learning to write her name, master the ABC’s and can almost count to 20. This is the right place for her now. But, being that she is so smart, we hope that in the future she will be able to have more inclusion in classes with typically developing children, assisted by a paraprofessional.
We take it a day at a time, appreciating Lyric for who she is, no matter what the future holds. We know our job as Lyric’s parents is truly a forever assignment…not in the typical sense until she turns 18. Today, there are people with Down syndrome who hold jobs, drive cars, get married, live on their own with supervision and much more. We will allow her dreams to unfold and give them wings as God opens the doors He has planned all along.
After school, I pick her up and begin my “taxi” service as mom to a pre-teen and teenager—Lyric’s 11-year-old sister and 14-year-old brother—who are involved in competitive swimming, robotics club, Boy Scouts and church youth group. Lyric is happy to ride along. She’s even happier when her church hymns CD or “The Wheels on the Bus” CD is on. She bops and does hand motions in her car seat as we make our way around town.
Once we’re home, she likes to sit at the kitchen table and do activities or stand in a chair beside me to watch me prepare dinner. Her hands are “fast on the draw,” so I have to multi-task and use all of the eyes all over my “mom” head that the Lord gave me to keep up with her!
On Wednesday evenings we eat dinner at church, then she attends children’s choir in a 4 year-olds’ class. What Lyric calls “music cass” is a highlight each week. On Sundays she attends a 4 year-old Sunday school class and enjoys playing with her friends.
She wraps up each day with a bubble bath (her favorite activity!) and playing with her brother (who adores her) and sister (who is like a second “mommy”). Lyric’s day ends with prayers and kisses from everyone.
Yes, I am exhausted at night….sometimes before that! Sometimes my patience is stretched so thin that I think I am going to either break or bounce back into a ball and hit the wall. Did I mention that Lyric has a stubborn streak, too? We’ve had experience with that already in this house, so that was nothing new…..God has a sense of humor. However, Lyric’s stubbornness doesn’t last long and usually melts into a hug.
We don’t know what in the world our lives would be like without Lyric Grace! None of us can imagine.
The thing that has struck me most is how she has embodied God’s grace to us. She is hardly ever in a bad mood and offers love and hugs freely as if that is the only way to live. The few times we have seen her sad, a song lifts her spirits in a second and within a minute all is well with her world again. She freely forgives our shortcomings as we muddle through adjusting to parenting a small child again and makes us laugh with her silly gestures and sayings. Her big brown eyes melt your heart as she grabs your face and pulls you close to kiss your nose. Oh, if we could love more like that, forgive easily and allow our mood to change in a snap with a song!
A part of every adoption story is pain, separation and loss. You can’t get around it. Lyric has experienced this.
She will never remember her biological mother’s face or her embrace. She lived in a hospital, a foster home and two orphanages before coming home. We can’t deny that God orchestrated a plan for her life before it began. His fingerprints are all over when we look at how He placed her with people who really cared for her along the way and ultimately whispered to our hearts that she was the little girl we were to adopt. At the right time, we read about her on the Hong Kong Waiting Child list via the Dillon website. The rest is sweet history. And we thank God every day.
I’ll take her wiggles in our bed early in the morning any day. I don’t mind because I know she was destined to be mine and we were meant to be her family…forever and always. THAT, my friends, is way more special than any extra chromosome will give or delay!