Thursday, October 25, 2012

Down Syndrome Association of Ontario Conference

Sheeesh, I know it's been a while .... AGAIN! I really need to start dedicating more time to my neglected blog.
We just returned from an exciting weekend at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario. We were attending the Down Syndrome Association of Ontario conference with a ton of other families from around the province. It was mine and J's second time at the conference and G's first visit ever to GWL. If you haven't been, you're missing out. What fun we had! We met some new friends and reconnected with those we've seen at a couple of other conferences over the past year and a half.
There were several meaningful  moments for me at this years conference, even though I was feeling rather distracted by a soon-to-be busy two year old who wasn't feeling that great and the fact that I was constantly trying to figure out when I could make time in the weekend to hit the waterpark. I was totally looking forward to the keynote speaker, Dan Kulp, who has an amazing story. He grew up with several siblings with Down syndrome and has more recently adopted children with special needs. In fact, I was excited to find out that he's a Reece's Rainbow dad! Anyway, Dan surely didn't disappoint. The fact that he's a commedian gave him the much needed street-cred from daddy Bakes. He had the room laughing and at some moments, at the verge of tears because of his powerful story about growing up with sibilings living with Down syndrome and his journey through international adoption. Very inspirational and a real-life hero in my eyes. Some of us do not choose the life of having a child with Down syndrome but fully embrace it once the situation presents itself. But to go out and purposefully choose incredibly worthy children is another thing. That to me is a hero.
I was excited to re-connect with another mama with a little guy living with Down syndrome. What a brave woman she is! Julie Contini was the author of the article 8 Truths about Special Needs Parenting in Canadian Living magazine. If you haven't read it. You should. Anyway, we chatted about how putting yourself "out-there" can make you so vulnerable to criticizm and sometimes the unwated opinions of people towards individuals with Down syndrome. Fortunately, Julie hasn't recieved any negative feedback on her article and I'm not surprised! The article spoke the truth about the ups and downs of parenting a child with special needs and it's important that people know.
There were several break-out sessions that we could attend throughout the conference and I kind of stubbled across one of the most "real" sessions ever. The title was "Coping" by Dr. Lise Poirier-Groulx and I was a little unclear whether that meant our children coping or how parents cope. Typically, the sessions revolve around ways to support and enhance the lives of our children but  much to my surprise, this session was strictly for parents. What a breath of fresh air to hear the real truths and stories of other parents and how they are continuously coping with the needs of their family. She began the session talking about grief. You know it's gonna be a tear jerker when grief is the first thing thrown out there to discuss. Well, for any parent of a child with special needs, it's no shocker that we experience greif. Life. Long. Grief. So, Dr. Lise, who is a psychotherapist herself, went on to lead the group in a discussion on how to cope with grief, how to manage sibling needs and issues, having clear family and couple boundaries, and how it's perfectly alright to be the "good enough" parent. In fact, she even suggests that being a "good enough" parent is being the best parent you can be. One that listens to the needs of all the members of the family and making decisions based on that. Not based on what society deems as the "perfect parent". Society may not agree to all the methods you use as a parent with a child with special needs but as long as you're doing what's best for your family and their safety, then that's A-OK. If you'd like to know more about Dr. Lise, check out the article here.
Here are a few highlights of our weekend....

                                                           Mama & J visiting the falls.

                     Family pic in the lobby of the hotel. The animals are all's pretty neat!
                                     Daddy Bakes and Monkey J at the Halloween Dance Party.
                                        Definitely the highlight of the weekend for our party boy!

Oh and one more thing.....

                          HAVE A GREAT WOLF DAY!

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