Birthdays Are a Great Reminder of What My Angel Can Do

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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Comparing our kids to other families can make it difficult to see the wonderful things happening in our own lives. To avoid falling into this comparison trap with my 12-year-old Angel, Juliana, I focus instead on the awesome things she can do. Birthday celebrations are the perfect time to reflect on milestones and celebrate big accomplishments.

Who needs a party?

We celebrated Juliana’s 12th birthday last week. We don’t really do birthday parties at our house, but the birthday honoree gets to enjoy a whole day of favorites, starting with breakfast in bed. Juliana had school on her birthday this year, but afterward, we enjoyed the beautiful weather and spent some time at the park, one of her favorite places.

Although Juliana will go down the slide at school, she’s not as brave when we visit the park as a family. Instead, she played with some of the built-in activities and ventured around the playground.

| Angelman Syndrome News | Holding a "Happy Birthday" balloon, Juliana pulls on a net on a playground at her favorite park.

Juliana giggles while having some birthday fun at the playground of her favorite park. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

We ended the day with one of Juliana’s favorite meals, topped off with strawberry cake. Her smiles and laughter let me know that she had a blast, and a wave of nostalgia washed over me when her 10-year-old sister, Jessa, helped Juliana blow out the birthday candles.

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Worth the wait

When we celebrate Juliana’s birthday each year, I’m always reminded of how far she has come. By no means have I forgotten all of those difficult years of getting to this point, such as when we were waiting for her to walk.

Waiting for things became much easier when I stopped comparing Juliana’s accomplishments to those of other Angels or to some of the statistics I’ve read. Avoiding the comparison trap can be difficult in any type of parenting situation. There will always be that kid who seems to be doing better, which makes you wonder, “Hey, when is my kid going to do that?”

However, the trap becomes even more important to avoid as a special needs parent. Asking the question too frequently is a good way to set yourself up for disappointment. I’ve learned to shift the focus away from what isn’t happening to what is.

She can do it, too

Raising a child with Angelman syndrome is stressful enough. Focusing on what Juliana can do is productive and healthy. On top of that, don’t we all feel better when we remember the good things that are happening in our lives? So, this year, as Juliana turned 12, I also celebrated the following awesome accomplishments:

These skills are part of the characteristics that make Angelman syndrome so challenging to live with. I knew Juliana would meet these milestones, I just didn’t know when. She did them in her own time, and that makes the timing just right.

For most people, celebrating your child’s birthday acknowledges that she is getting older. But I like it my way, too: celebrating my kid’s birthday to acknowledge that she’s getting better.

Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.


Tami Guilday avatar

Tami Guilday

A beautiful and inspirational article, Sabrina. You consistently teach us all. Hugs and a happy birthday to Julianna!

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

Sabrina L. Johnson

Thank you so much! I love that you say I'm teaching others. Juliana is teaching me:).


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