When Penny was younger, I resisted setting goals for her. The early years of her life were full of measurements and yardsticks and a sense of “falling short” of developmental milestones. I never felt like Penny actually fell short, but the charts and graphs told us she did. I wanted to be done with charts and graphs. I wanted to be done with goals and live in the present moment and receive the gift of her life each day as she was given to us.
Afraid to Plan for the Future
Eventually, I realized that the problem was not necessarily setting goals. The problem was with imposing goals that came to us from the outside—from what doctors or some other social system said. The problem was with thinking she needed to conform to some norm of productivity or efficiency or speed or knowledge.
I was afraid to plan for the future, because I was afraid it would feel like we had failed her.
Dreaming for the Future
In recent years, I’ve realized that planning for the future is an acknowledgment of Penny’s particularity—her particular dreams, her particular gifts, her particular desires, her particular beauty, and her particular challenges.
The difference is that we are looking at who she is, not who someone else says she is supposed to be. We are asking how we can honor and support her in becoming her own beautiful self.
Planning for Penny’s future is an act of hope in who she is becoming. We are dreaming for the future together.
Learn more with Amy Julia:
- Penny’s PATH Process: Planning for Life After High School
- Penny in Her Own Words: The PATH Process and Planning for the Future
- Essay Collection: Missing Out on Beautiful—Growing Up With a Child With Down Syndrome
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