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On Belonging and Finding Joy

July 28, 2016

Last week we trekked to a family reunion that I’ve not always warmly welcomed. But then this year. We belonged.

For three days we shared meals and laughs and pool time and conversations and worries and evaluations and encouragement. Our kids played while grandmas and aunts distracted the rambunctious ones and then rocked the tired ones. We swapped remember when stories and gushed over how much all the kids have grown. We snapped photos and said we couldn’t wait for next year.

This reunion, hosted as The Focus Foundation‘s 49ers Conference, has become a sanctuary for me. This gathering of experts and families all interconnected by the three extra chromosomes our boys share. A place where the doctors for once know more than I do about his disorder. The place where I watch my ten month old baby adore her brother’s 49er friends in the same way she is smitten with Reed. Where I watch Luke embody the differences don’t matter mindset. Where we benefit from the collected wisdom and experience and love of other families. The place where I see Reed, full of confidence and happiness, connect so easily with other kids. Simply, it’s the one time a year we are not the odd family out. We belong.

I’ll admit that first family reunion three years ago was rough. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to have a son like this. I didn’t want to meet older boys with the same disorder and feel like I was staring down my future. The second reunion was slightly less terrible but still incredibly overwhelming. I had accepted our new normal but my questions and worries still clung.

But then this third year just felt like coming home. Instead of being sad that we need to be there, I find joy in Reed’s exceptionality leading us on this journey. And I surprise myself. As hard as I’ve fought and pushed against this story — the one I didn’t pick, the one I never thought I could have survived in — now this feels like family? Like coming home?  And I just laugh giddy because it feels like a triumph. To be able to say not only do I accept this story, I cherish it.


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