Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Uncomplicated Life

One of the things that surprises me as a reader is how much I love books about Downs Syndrome. One book the resonates with me long after I read it was a book called The Unfinished Child. It just.. it stuns me how people treat children with disabilities even now, but certainly what it would have been like even 50 years ago or more. It's pretty horrific, really. But in my current life, my kids go to school where children with varying disabilities is accepted and they are welcomed into classrooms. "Normal" kids are encouraged to include these children in activities and daily classroom interaction. Which is really great because I'd like to hope that that kind of start is a great way to help children realize acceptance is something we should all embrace.

An Uncomplicated Life: A Father's Memoir of his Exceptional Daughter - Paul Daughtery
An Uncomplicated Life: A Father's Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter
A father's exhilarating and funny love letter to his daughter with Down syndrome whose vibrant and infectious approach to life has something to teach all of us about how we can better live our own.

Jillian Daugherty was born with Down syndrome. The day they brought her home from the hospital, her parents, Paul and Kerry, were flooded with worry and uncertainty, but also overwhelming love, which they channeled to "the job of building the better Jillian." While their daughter had special needs, they refused to allow her to grow up needy--"Expect, Don't Accept" became their mantra. Little did they know how ready Jillian was to meet their challenge.

Paul tells stories from Jillian's mischievous childhood and moves to her early adulthood, tracing her journey to find happiness and purpose in her adult life, sharing endearing anecdotes as well as stories about her inspiring triumphs. Having graduated from high school and college, Jillian now works to support herself, and has met the love of her life and her husband-to-be, Ryan.

In An Uncomplicated Life, the parent learns as much about life from the child as the child does from the parent. Through her unmitigated love for others, her sparkling charisma, and her boundless capacity for joy, Jillian has inspired those around her to live better and more fully. The day Jillian was born, Paul says, was the last bad day. As he lovingly writes, "Jillian is a soul map of our best intentions"--a model of grace, boundless joy, and love for all of us. 

A really great book that documents the journey of parents Paul and Kerry, who embark on a special path of parenting when their second child is born with Downs Syndrome. What was interesting from the start was how it was mentioned that during Kerry's pregnancy, they encountered several children and adults with Downs Syndrome and she anticipated that as a sign. What with her maternal age, and in a time where genetic testing wasn't like it is now, in the back of her head she felt like maybe that was a sign. Turns out, it was because shortly after Jillian's birth, they learn that Jillian does in fact have Downs Syndrome. (Side note, I totally believe that somehow our body just knows what's happening and tries to clue you in. My miscarriage was very much like that for me.)

What makes this different was the positive attitude both parents really took from the get go. Not to say they didn't struggle, have doubts, or weren't sure what to do sometimes, but overall- they really do a fantastic job raising Jillian to continually challenge herself, to not give up, and to not tolerate being treated differently. They really took on the role of advocates for their daughter and are such an example of what parents should be for their children. 

I loved how this was written, even with sports comparisons (the author does write a sports column, after all), because he's such a dad. Personal stories of struggle and successes are told with humor and endearment. You finish the book feeling just as proud of Jillian as you would if she were your own child. I highly recommend this book if you are in need of something uplifting, if you are the parent of a child with Downs Syndrome (or pregnant, debating your options), or work with children with disabilities. I think you'll finish the book with a renewed sense of what these kids can really do if given the chance and positive guidance. 

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Paul DaughertyAbout Paul Daugherty

Paul Daugherty has been a sports columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer since 1994. He has covered nearly every major American sporting event, as well as five Summer Olympic Games. He is the author of Fair Game, a collection of his sports columns, and coauthor of books with Chad Johnson and Johnny Bench. He blogs daily at The Morning Line on He lives in Loveland, Ohio, with his wife, Kerry.

Connect with Paul on Facebook and Twitter.


The Flynnigans said...

Not only are you hilarious, you're also a fantastic writer, you know that?

Sounds like a great read. I would read it based on your synopsis and opinion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being a part of the tour for this incredible book!