Making Lemonade

In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day 2018, here's a story about how books can help make sour lemons into sweet lemonade (so to speak).

Uriah, sitting on the grass, smiling and holding a stick

Uriah’s most common facial expression is a smile. No book required.

Our oldest son, Uriah, recently achieved one of the biggest accomplishments of his life, to date. He learned to pee in a potty.  

He is 5 years old.

A bit late for potty training, you might think, and you’re entitled to your thoughts. After all, the average child is potty trained between the ages of two and three. 

Uriah has been and will always be, on his own track to achievement. And all achievements will be met while sporting an extra chromosome. In other words, Uriah has Down syndrome, which sometimes has an impact on his timeline for success. 

Dara and Uriah smiling, sitting on bathroom floor

One of our only potty training selfies. Proof Uriah was as joyful as I describe.

One the most important things I’ve learned in watching Uriah grow is not to focus on what the world would view as lemons, but on his ability to produce lemonade (not a metaphor for pee, I promise). I’m not going to elaborate on the number of hours we spent in or near the bathroom that initial weekend we started training him. It would most likely make you gasp or cry. For me, it was the latter. I was so sick of being stuck in our bathroom, I started to develop a phobia. I can’t remember another time when I felt so confined! 

This initial potty training effort was by far the most intense, long-term, all-consuming process I’ve ever embarked on as a mother, and for good reason. I was helping my son consciously abandon a behavior pattern he had always known, and embrace a new one…in one weekend.

It was easy—very easy—for me to focus on those negative, sour-lemony thoughts, which seemed to multiply by the hour. I kicked myself about all the time we had spent on the changing table, going to buy diapers, etc. I was falling further down the rabbit hole and was about to drown in lemons.  

Our training protocol was that after so many minutes, if Uriah was successful, he got a quick reward (generally a small piece of chocolate, or that he could watch a 2-minute video on my phone). As his interval time in between potty-perches grew, another challenge surfaced. How do you keep a five-year-old entertained and engaged within a two foot radius of a toilet?

And in this circumstance, Uriah decided to make lemonade out of my lemons. His joy for reading trumped any discouragement from being stuck in the confines of a bathroom. In fact, he wasn’t discouraged at all. He was happy to have my undivided attention while sitting his bare bottom in my lap to hear yet another book…or sing another favorite nursery rhyme or song.

Uriah in his car seat, reading a book

Just one example of Uriah enjoying a book on-the-go.

This is where all those months of changing his diaper did matter, but in the most positive, lemonade kind of way. Oftentimes, during a diaper change, we would sing Uriah a nursery rhyme or song. This was one way of exposing him to language…because we knew he may need to hear more words than the average child before learning to read.

All those trips to Target to buy wipes and diapers only developed his love for stories. In check-out lanes we would often grab a book and read it quickly, or discuss what book we’d read when we get home. Add in all the other times we would read at the park…during lunch…waiting for the doctor….waiting for a therapy session… in the bathtub….or waiting for dinner to finish cooking…all of it added up, and that’s the point. 

The Ryman Puppet Theatre at the NPL's Main Library is one of Uriah’s favorite spots to tell a story. And getting a hand stamp from our friend Mr. Patrick is an important part of our visit to the library.

If you learn to love reading, rhyming and singing—anytime, anywhere—then you can love reading, rhyming and singing anytime, anywhere. Even if you're two feet from a toilet for days on end.

Books are a great way to make lemonade.

This post was written in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, which happens on March 21st each year. 

Titles from Training & Some of Uriah's Favorites


What a wonderful read!!

This is such a sweet story to hear and so reassuring!!! We are getting ready to head down the potty training rabbit hole and it's amazing to hear from another mama about the ways you kept your little one entertained in that tiny little space. Congrats on being diaper free!!

Such a wonderful testament to the love, dedication and selflessness of a mother!

Go Uriah! I love this awesome take on what everybody knows is a stressful situation!

My heart just grew a million times. Thank you for sharing your story and your wonderful energy!

This was a wonderful read! We are currently working hard to potty train our 3 year old son with Autism. He too learns and progresses at his own pace. I have many times felt the phobia of the bathroom accompanied by lemon thoughts. I am so proud of Uriah! Not only did he accomplish one of the hardest things to learn as a kid, but he did it with the utmost positive attitude! As if that isn't enough he also managed to include one of our favorite past times, reading! Way to go mom hanging in there, encouraging a life long love, and way to go Uriah for reminding us all how much of a difference our attitude can make no matter what we are trying to do!

What a beautiful article!! So inspiring! A downright awesome little boy and an amazing, supportive mother! The NPL should post articles like this more often!!

Love this.

What a wonderful blog post. It’s amazing how books mean so much to us in so many different ways. They are truly transforming. Thank you for letting us into your world, Dara!

So wonderful. Books are truly life changing. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Love, love, love this!!! What a great way to encourage reading...even on the potty ;) What an amazing child and momma! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful article!

Happy Down Syndrome Day and Hooray Uriah! You are totally awesome (as is your mother) and it is a joy to see you enjoying a good book. Congrats on using your hobby to learn a new life skill. Also, good book suggestions; thank you.

What a wonderful gift from our local library! Thank you for honoring our fabulous kids with Down Syndrome!

The honesty in this is so real! Beautiful and inspiring! What a blessing you are to each other. Thank you for sharing, families need more reads like this! You are both precious and he will do amazing things in this world!!!

Uriah is such a wonderful, lucky, little boy with great parents who understand the value of books and reading to their child. I grew up with a love of books because my parents were always reading. I am so grateful to know your family and am eager to see the adventures that Uriah continues to take as he learns and grows!

Proud Papa!

What a precious journey with our Uriah. This is only the start of our wonderous trip. I have been given the honor of standing on the sidelines and running interference when needed. If you truly want to witness the effect books have on bonding a family and learning....witness this young family. Proud and grateful grandparent!

You are a wonderful mommy and you have a lovely family. Hooray for books and the joy they bring!!d Hooray for Uriah!!

Beautifully written and so inspiring! Books are magic, and make good come from hard. Thank you for sharing!

Such a wonderful story!!! Books have always been a big part of my life!!!

I'm so glad I made it to the website to read his story!

What a pretty little boy and his beautiful mother. Thanks for a heartwarming story about the successes inherent in everyday life!

Beautiful story, beautiful child, beautiful mama, beautiful family. You're such a gifted writer -- it's clear you love reading, too. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your journey and the love of reading you've instilled in Uriah. What a gift.

What a joy to read this and a reminder that life’s biggest challenges for us, are so simple for kids, and happy moments. All About our “perspectacles”. all the love of reading has added up for Uriah right when when you needed it most...potty training!!! Thank you for the book recommendations!

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