It’s something no parent ever wants to hear: your child has Down syndrome. But that’s exactly what happened just a day after Paul Daugherty’s daughter, Jillian, was born. It was something he and his wife worried about. After all, Paul’s wife had gotten pregnant with her when she was in her mid 30s, so the statistics were there – by age 35, women have a 1 in 350 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome (source). Then Jillian was born, and they found out that their fears had come true: Jillian had Down syndrome. And, as Paul put it in his book, this day was “the last bad day.”
Jillian is an incredible woman. She’s an incredible woman because she has incredible parents who fought for their daughter to have the same access to opportunities as anyone else. Her Down syndrome didn’t define her, it didn’t hold her back. Instead, she blossomed. She became a light to others, an inspiration to many. She graduated high school, though the process to getting there was not fraught without trouble. I really appreciated the raw and real look Daugherty showed us about the public school system and how hard it is for parents to have their voices heard. The Daugherty’s didn’t just want Jillian to graduate from high school; they wanted her to thrive in high school. This means not being placed in special education classes, but keeping her with her mainstream peers to learn and grow and develop right alongside them. It means meeting after meeting after meeting of going over her Individualized Education Plan, trying to get a school system that isn’t necessarily concerned with finding solutions to listen to what they want and need for their daughter.
An Uncomplicated Life is a memoir of Paul’s daughter, taking us from her birth to moving her into her own apartment, where she lives with her boyfriend, Ryan. Paul is raw, vulnerable, and completely honest with his emotions throughout the years: the highs, the lows, the happiness, the sadness, the frustration, the joys. It’s all there, written in a completely real way that anyone can relate to.
Some poignant quotes:
[Jillian] has affected everyone who has taken the time to see her. Seeing isn’t easy. It requires participation. It implies understanding. Seeing is a mandatory swatch of the human fabric. It invokes a civil right. Do not judge me on what I look like. See me for who I am.
Kindess is at the center of all we hope to be. If you are kind, you are trusting and trustful. You don’t judge. Judging implies superiority. It makes people uncomfortable.
Jillian has never seen herself as disabled. She knows she has Down syndrome, but she doesn’t believe she is different, if that makes sense. Her disability is more of a concept to her. She lacks the capability to take an intellectual accounting of who she is, and how she’s different from her peers. It just doesn’t occur to her. Or if it has, we’ve never heard her talk about it. We’ve never heard her say, “I wish I didn’t have Down syndrome.”
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.
I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions, unless otherwise stated, are my own.
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