“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” -Shel Silverstein
Brian Donovan, our second keynote speaker, opens with a series of inspirational quotes, and that one brought tears to my eyes. Before Sienna arrived, I spent so much time wondering about this baby growing inside of me. I had dreams for her and our family. I constantly pictured Haley with this new sibling. After four miscarriages, we had big hopes for our future. When Sienna finally arrived, we thought we crossed the finish line. Then, we found out about her Down syndrome diagnosis. I thought it meant we had to give up those dreams. I had much to learn.
So, who is Brian Donovan and what qualifies him to inspire this particular group of moms? He is an actor and he lovingly tells us, “I’m here because I made a movie about my best buddy, my soulmate, my spectacular, little sister, Kelly. He then shows us the trailer to his movie, Kelly’s Hollywood. We all watched and the tears came quickly. Kelly’s Hollywood is currently available on SHOWTIME. Please check out the trailer here.
He continues, “Every single human being has a strength, a talent, or interest, and you can build a life upon that.” What he said hits me hard. Every SINGLE person. His sister had dreams and he let her soar with them. He encouraged, supported, and loved. He speaks about the dignity of risk. It’s a perspective that I had not considered. There is dignity in risk, in proving yourself, in working hard and making your dreams come true. There is dignity in trying and failing. I want Sienna to have every experience in life that she craves. No limits.
The older she gets, the more I realize I need to find a voice outside of my blog. What I am currently doing is known as armchair advocacy. I am proud of my voice in this community, and on this blog. If I am truthful with myself, I know that I have a tendency to let things slide in the real world. Comments come and go and I walk away from situations feeling like I was run over by a bulldozer. I have an easier time digesting my thoughts at my pace and writing them down. I have to work on advocating in person.
This weekend is empowering me. I am being showered with words of support and kinship. I am gaining inspiration and strength from being in this room, this room of fellow Mama bear warriors. I know we often call our kids warriors, but I want all of the Rockin’ moms out there to know that we are warriors too. We take on battles every day for our children.
Brian continues, “Fight like a mother. When your kid is sick, push for answers. When your kid is overlooked, push for awareness. When your kid is excluded, push for inclusion. When your kid isn’t recognized, push for a light to shine on them. When others want to give up, push for motivation. When people don’t expect your child to achieve, show them they are capable. Expect more and never, ever accept less. Fight. Never stop. Your kid depends on you. The future depends on you. Stand your ground and fight. We’ve got your back.”
And here comes the ugly crying. Thanks, Brian. Honestly though, I want to put these words on a banner and hang them in my house. I want to read these words before I suit up for battle every day. Hearing Brian speak with such conviction and love for his sister is everything my mom soul needs to hear. I know my girls will have the special connection that he had with his sister. We are blessed. We are the lucky few. Just ask Heather Avis.
I look around the room and my cup runneth over. There are moms hugging, tissues being passed around, hands being held, and inspiration being revealed.
Prior to Brian’s talk, a panel of Rockin moms with older kiddos took the stage. I thought about sharing all the nuggets of wisdom they bestowed upon us. I don’t think I can do it. Again, they are not my stories to tell, but we were exhilarated by their words. They have traveled this journey and they are still standing. In fact, they had us laughing pretty much the entire time. Our kids are hilarious.
After Brian’s heartwarming talk, we were treated to some pampering. Mary and I chose to indulge in getting our hair braided, the mani/pedi station, makeup and airbrush tattoos. I am so close to getting the real tattoo, but that’s another post for another day. After we were pampered, we had some drinks and floated on the lazy river with a sea of other rockin’ moms. Pun intended.
Next up was the Rockin’ Moms Night Out. It included cocktails(too many), a mentalist, karaoke, followed by drunken conversations at the hotel bar, until we shut it down.
While I was getting my hair braided, I spoke with the hair stylist. She said, “I am in awe of all of you.” I asked her what she meant. She said, “Just look at this room. Look at all of these moms that have never even met. I felt love from the moment I walked in here. How do you have connections this deep when you only meet once a year?” This was an easy one to answer. I looked at her and said, “Our kids.”
“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is that only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead