This week I have something super special for you, I had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with my father about his experiences with raising a son with Down Syndrome. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life… we talked all things from fear to inclusion. The energy this man exuded when he spoke of his son was unbelievable and being a witness to that is something I will forever cherish. So it is with great pleasure I take you inside my conversation with Aaron’s dad, Kirk Trofholz.
So let me back up a little and by a little I mean to the year 1984…on October 17, Kirk became a father. (So this is Kirk’s 32nd Father’s Day, you go dad! You’re the real MVP). My mom has said Kirk “took the ball and ran with it” and “he was my rock” when they discovered Aaron had Down Syndrome. She shared that every morningat 6:00 a.m.he would get up to practice Aaron’s therapy exercises with him before work. Eye witnesses report that the two always ended up playing football, in Kirk’s eyes Aaron had every ability to be the next running back for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Aaron was the first born of four kids, which believe me when I say I know whole heartedly that was God’s timing because our family would never have been the same. Aaron laid the foundation in which my parents learned to parent and it is a fricken miracle! Kirk is the father he is because he embraced with every fiber of his being what it meant to be a parent of a child with extraordinary abilities. This meant that the next three kids were extremely lucky.
Still following? Great… back to present day and my conversation with my dad, Kirk.
Kirk shared a few of his favorite stories about raising Aaron with me, trust me, those will all eventually make it to The Heart Ability. But for today, I want to focus in on the story that still gives me chills, tugs at my heart strings, and gives me all the feels.
Aaron attended pre-school, grade school, middle school, and high school with the “normal” kids. I can presume this was anxiety provoking to parents who feared that their child would not be included and above all that he would be misunderstood. Kirk took these fears into his own hands, put on his shiny #1 Dad cape (okay, not really, but theoretically) and went in to Aaron’s classrooms before the school year began. Each and E V E R Y year he met with Aaron’s soon to be classmates to share one important message, Aaron was a kid just like them. He shared about Down Syndrome in a tangible way to the kiddos who didn’t even know the word chromosome. He shared that this chromosome just makes things a little different for Aaron. He pointed out to the children that they too have different characteristics. For example, different hair color, different eye color, different hobbies, or different heights. He introduced the critical value of appreciating one another’s differences. He helped the kids to understand that they were much more alike than they were different. He told the kids that Aaron will laugh, want to play, and learn just like them. He educated the children by telling them Aaron may take a little longer to express himself with words, but again, he was just like them. He gave the kids a little Q&A time. The kids would ask several questions, for example, “what happens if Aaron swears?” His response… “what happens when you swear?” As Aaron progressed through school the questions soon became, “what is a chromosome?” You betcha Kirk was well prepared to answer these questions.
He shared what an obvious choice this action was for him, he never questioned that it was his responsibility to help others move past the fear of the unknown. He believes in acceptance, inclusion, patience, and love. This was more than evident in our conversation.
I still get chills thinking about this act of love. All he was trying to do was normalize his child’s disability in order to provide acceptance for everything that makes Aaron who he is. He went above and beyond to ensure that his child would be accepted for his infinite abilities. He never faulted the children who did not understand rather he took it upon himself to help them understand.
I believe Aaron said it perfectly when I asked him what his favorite thing about his dad was. He stated very matter of fact, “He’s a good man and he works hard for the family”.
Dad, you are a good man. You have loved and believed in each one of us every single day.
Thank you for showing me what it means to be an extraordinary human being. Thank you for teaching me the most valuable ability of all, to love absolutely unconditionally. Love has zero conditions.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.
Favorite Father’s Day Quotes