I received this book for free from Publisher, TLC Book Tours for review consideration, opinions expressed are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you.An Uncomplicated Life: A Father's Memoir of His Exceptional Daughter by Paul Daugherty
Published by William Morrow on March 17, 2015
Genres: Biography/Memoir, Nonfiction, Parenting
Source: Publisher, TLC Book Tours
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“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.”
What a pleasure and inspiration it was to read this book. I knew from the synopsis that it had potential to make me a weepy basket case, full of admiration for Jillian and her family and give me a better understanding of what a person with Down Syndrome and their family endures.
I was skeptical though. I typically read books written by women. My favorite female authors develop characters so complex and endearing that I can relate to them, feel like I’m friends with them, and miss them when the book is done. Could a male sports columnist evoke that same emotional response from me I love so much in books written by women? In Paul Daugherty’s case, a resounding YES!
Paul’s writing was poignant and beautiful and yes, I was an absolute weepy basket case. An overwhelming love for their daughter fills each page, each hurdle they must traverse or cross they must bear, Paul and his wife, Kerry devote their lives to “building a better Jillian.”
And what a remarkable young lady Jillian is. All those things the doctors told Paul and Kerry that Jillian wouldn’t be able to do when she was born, basically turned into a to-do list to show those doctors not to underestimate THIS family.
5 Things This Book Made Me Think About
1. What NOT to say to parents of a special-needs child when you hear the diagnosis.
I tend to say the absolute wrong thing when I’m nervous, especially as I’m usually nervous about saying the wrong thing. Paul tells us peoples’ responses when they learn that Jillian had Down Syndrome and why each one of them was hurtful, although good-intentioned response.
2. “Expect, Don’t Accept” and “All You Can Do is All You Can Do”.
Two of the Daugherty family mottos when it came to Jillian’s care. They expected to treat her like a “typical” child. They expected that Jillian would accomplish what she was able to in her time and in her way. It may not be on a “typical” child’s timeline, but it would be done on Jillian’s timeline. I loved the way these parents nurtured and dedicated their time and love to Jillian. It’s hard enough for me to teach my youngest to tie his shoes or sound out words while reading, I expect him to be able to do it, reading came so easily to his brothers. But this child is different and I just have to work on giving him the clues to help him do it and the ability to do it in his own time.
3. No One Knows Your Child Like You Do
As parents we always have doubts if we are doing right by our child. Whether it’s why our baby is crying or what is the best educational opportunity, usually our parental instincts are right. Then when our children start school, suddenly there are teachers and administrators who think they know what’s best for our child. Paul and Kerry are clearly very attentive and doting parents, they know what Jillian is capable of when she sets her mind to something. I learned more about IEP’s and the struggles that students and parents face trying to get the best education for their special-needs child.
4. “You Can’t Make the World See Your Kid the Way You Do.”
This one stings a little and I’m sure to Paul and Kerry it stings a lot. When people see my hyper little energy ball who can’t stand still, I get either a glare or comment like “how do you keep up with him?” My response is usually that he’s showing his love and excitement over the people we’re seeing or the place where we’re visiting. Do they see the calm, sweet little boy who cuddles in my lap to read books? No. Or the one who plays quietly with Legos for hours on end using his little boy imagination to create intricate masterpieces? No. Or the darling who tells me on my crazy-haired bathroom-scrubbing days that I’m beautiful? No. I wish others could see my kids the way I do. Wouldn’t that be a happier world? If we saw each other with love and thoughtfulness the way loving parents see their children? If people could see that kids like Jillian can teach us about pure no-strings-attached love, being happy and kind?
5. What Makes Jillian Exceptional, Also Makes Her Happier
Paul explains that Jillian knows words but has trouble understanding their meaning. This disconnect makes it hard for Jillian in elementary/middle school to comprehend what she’s reading. And later, it does not occur to her to question the actions of her nonchalant peers. She takes the people outside her family in stride. Paul says she’s hardly ever sad. She has a contagious smile and a friendly air about her with everyone she meets, regardless of their response to her. Wouldn’t that be great to be genuinely happy, uncomplicated and not concerned with how others are judging you?
It was a wave of emotions reading this book, I cried at Jillian’s diagnosis, cried happy tears with each small victory she earned, laughed at her innocent and sometimes way too literal interpretations and beamed with joy experiencing some of her finest moments. Beautifully written and highly recommended. As a parent and a daughter, Jillian’s story impacted me greatly, I’m missing her already.
Loveland, Ohio and Montreat, North Carolina
I’m proud to be the first stop on the TLC Book Tour for An Uncomplicated Life. Visit TLC Book Tours page for the book trailer and more reviews from other book bloggers.
What books have inspired you lately? Do you know or have a special needs child in your family? What have you learned from them?