I hadn't been Macy's father for long when I heard the diagnosis that would change our lives. There were so many emotions, yet I vividly remember how they soon turned to love and compassion. After Macy came home from the hospital, emotions seemed to constantly switch from happiness to not sadness, but to concern for the unknown. Questions that I had no answer for, at least not yet.
Three years later, the hardest thing is keeping my mind from racing to the future -- but that feeling of worry is decreasing, mostly due to Macy’s amazing mother, my wife Sherri. I know she has her rough times too, and I can only hope that I can be as much of an inspiration to her as she’s been to me.
When we find ourselves thinking about the challenges that Down Syndrome brings into our lives, it's often us overreacting or worrying about small things that we don't need to be thinking about just yet. As we like to say, "We have a lot to think about, but nothing to worry about."
All the while, I try to do my best as Dad to my two beautiful girls, who are both making us so very proud. As little as she is, Macy's an enthusiastic runner in the Youth Athletes program and ran her first race during the Special Olympics Nebraska Summer Games. She started right at the sound of the gun. I was proud to see her feed off of the cheering crowd! She was so into it, she stopped and approached the finish line -- four times. It was so rewarding to see her out there, happy and excited.
We're going to keep encouraging her to try everything. We're going to allow her the opportunity to decide what her strengths are -- and where her passions lie. Whether she's an artist, a musician, a dancer, an athlete or a scholar, whatever she chooses, we'll support her and -- just like at Summer Games -- we'll cheer her on!!
About Joe Harnisch: I am the father of a Special Olympics Young Athlete.