Special needs

How I encourage my daughter to dream big

Anchel Krishna talks about her resolution for 2014 — and why it's important for both her and her daughter.

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Syona gets busy playing. Photo: Anchel Krishna

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy.

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the way I stopped dreaming big for my child.

When I was pregnant I had big dreams for my family. I’d spend hours deliberating what crib we should get, what colours to paint the nursery and how to decorate. The registry was carefully chosen and our family was so excited.

When Syona was born, things didn’t follow that traditional path. The things that I’d originally spent hours deliberating over — like her homecoming outfit from the hospital — now seemed completely trivial. The first weeks of Syona’s life were spent in hospital and her earliest days were spent battling a series of complications that could have easily ended in a very different way. From the moment she was born I knew my girl was a fighter, and I was so grateful. By the time she was ready to come home I had a lot of faith in her strength, which allowed me to regain my footing and get over the physical and emotional trauma that my family had all endured after she was born.

Shortly after Syona’s birth, we were told that there was some damage to her brain that could result in any number of complications down the road — from cerebral palsy to learning disabilities, seizures and even more challenges. But for some reason, I held onto the belief that this confirmed damage may lead to nothing.

After many months and missed milestones, Syona was officially diagnosed with cerebral palsy. My daughter had a lifelong physical disability. One that made it hard to predict what she would be able to do down the road.

I attended a conference this past fall that featured a keynote address from Canadian Olympian Silken Laumann. The talk focused on how to take care of yourself and the importance of dreams. At one point during the talk I had a revelation: I had become too scared to dream big dreams for myself, my family and — especially — for Syona. I had stopped dreaming for a child who could walk, talk, feed herself or drink from a cup, because I was scared that it wouldn’t come true. I put up a wall, keeping those big dreams out. I did it so I could love her exactly as she was and to protect my heart, which felt like it had been broken over and over as we went through so many challenges during those early days.

Instead, I started to focus on the things I could do: carry through with the homework we got from her therapy teams, research additional things we could do to help Syona’s development, connect with other parents so we didn’t feel alone, figure out how to advocate for my child in a way that felt right for me, find products that made our life easier, celebrate each and every bit of progress — and fill our lives with such an intense, unconditional love for Syona.

Syona has brought our lives so much joy and transformed us into the people we were meant to be. And I think it’s about time that I let go of the fear that has prevented me from dreaming big for my daughter, especially since this fear is based on hurt.

Our love for Syona is unconditional and we accept her, fully, for exactly who she is — not her abilities or disabilities.

But I want her to grow up knowing she’s allowed to aspire to whatever dreams she wants. I want her to grow up knowing that we will all work together to try and make those dreams a reality. And I want her to grow up knowing that, even when things don’t go her way, it’s important to create a different dream and work to make that happen instead. I want her to look at our life as a family and realize that even though it may not always turn out the way you expect, it will still be amazing. And I want her to know that big dreams are not always traditional or related to the milestones that many of us take for granted. Big dreams can be as simple and sweet as taking the time to truly appreciate the joy in your life.

Most importantly, I want her to grow up dreaming big dreams, which means I need to get back to dreaming big for my little girl. A pretty worthy resolution for 2014, I think.

What dreams do you have for your child? If you have a child with special needs, how did that impact your dreams?