What is Success, Anyway?

Recently, we spent some time with another family with two children, one of whom has Down syndrome and is the same age as Henry. I don't often feel comfortable enough to share my fears about our future, but I did with them.
I told them that I am really scared. I see many other families with kids with Down syndrome sharing their day to day lives truthfully.
They share that vacations are hard. They share that school is hard. There are countless meetings. They share that hospital bills are bankrupting them.
They share that they are tired, and that the challenges their children with Down syndrome present make life harder.
Are they entitled to share their opinion truthfully for all to see?
Without a doubt. 100%.
Does their reality scare and worry me about my future and the future of my family?
Without a doubt. 100%.
I worried aloud about my son's future successes -- or possible lack thereof. I worried aloud what this meant for our family and for our other son.
I shared all of these feelings with my husband and the other parents and to my shock, they all disagreed with me. They brought up a point that I have turned, flipped and spun around in my brain so many times since our conversation.
"You need to change your definition of success. Is it society's definition, or is it something else?"
Over and over since that moment I have thought:
What is success?
What does raising a successful child even mean?
If Eli grows up to become a well educated employee and involved parent in a successful relationship with a loving partner have I raised a successful child?
Many would say yes.
If Henry grows up and bags groceries at Big Y and lives at home, have I raised a successful child?
Some would say no.
But the answer is maybe.
I am realizing now that neither of these questions give you enough information to answer the question.
Instead, I would have to ask myself these questions.
If Eli and Henry are happy, have I raised successful children?
If Eli and Henry leave a room happier than they found it, have I raised successful children?
If Eli and Henry wake up everyday and love who they are and what they do, have I raised successful children?
If Eli and Henry care about others and their happiness, have I raised successful children?
The answer is yes.
Do I want my children to reach for the stars?
Will I be proud of my children if they totally miss the stars and land in a field somewhere but are completely happy there?


  1. As a mother of a son with Down Syndrome in his 30's, I enjoyed reading your post and the unconditional love I see in it. You have every right to be scared but I'm here to tell you that it all will work out. If both of your sons find what they love to do, whether one is able to go to college or not, you will have done your job as a parent. Lead them, love them and life will be filled with love and laughter and some tears but things seem to work out. When my daughter graduated college, I was so proud. When my son made his own lunch, I was so proud. Your perspective changes but your love and admiration doesn't.
    From what I see, you're a wonderful parent.


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