We Get to Do This!

Recently my husband and I spent the entire day in Lakewood with Caden. Such a rare occasion to get our grandson all day to ourselves. We were excited and ready for some fun!


Caden is a blonde-haired, hazel-eyed very active going-on-five-year-old joy of a boy. He loves music, monster trucks and trains. In the woods, he loves hiking, camping, climbing over fallen trees and rock throwing. At the park, he likes riding the skateboard ramps in his wagon, running across the rope bridge, sliding down twisted slides, swinging high into the sky and jumping into the pool for a swim. All. the. fun. things. nearly. five. year. olds. do.


We can barely keep up with his physicality!


And yet Caden was born with Down syndrome. Recently he has had what his preschool teacher calls “a language explosion!” On our very special day together, I got to hear him call me Nana—oh so clearly! Such beautiful music to my ears! And, his Pop got to hear Caden call him “Bop” many times throughout the day! Caden used his voice along with his fingers to count to ten for us! He said AND signed his ABC’s for us! He is reaching milestones at his own pace and either fist bumps or high fives with us as we celebrate each success!


Caden’s Nana and “Bop” get to do this!


Before Caden’s birth, we knew so very little about Down syndrome. But—while racing through life at a faster-than-we-ever-needed-to-go pace, Caden’s diagnosis stopped us in our tracks. We soon learned to adjust our speed as we moved forward in our role as Caden’s grandparents.


We read books about children and adults with Down syndrome and connected with many on-line help resources. We found GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland and all who believe in its mission to  encourage us. They assured our family of the new adventure Caden would soon orchestrate and promised to help every step along the way!


Still, not every day is easy. Navigating through all that comes with loving or caring for someone with an intellectual disability can be quite hard. Therapies, medical appointments and procedures likely fill your schedule and advocating for a better world for your loved one can be exhausting.


Yet, with unflappable hope in our hearts, we say,

 “Our family gets to do this!”


And just as GiGi’s promised, Caden is orchestrating that new adventure for us all. To his own beat! Like a song with its own unique and beautiful rhythm! Where chords are held longer and cherished more fully.


Before our special day was done, Caden and “Bop” stood hand-in-hand listening to the melody of clickety-clack “Train on Tracks” three or four times! Choo-Choo! Choo-Choo! A huge perk to living in Lakewood, no doubt!


Caden and Nana slid down the highest curvy slide at the park to the tune of “Caden First, Nana Second” again and again! Caden would glance back regularly to be sure Nana was following and Giggle! Giggle! until both of us reached the bottom where I’d wrap him into the biggest tightest squeeze! Gotcha! Followed by more Giggle! Giggle!

We get to do this!


And we could have missed it!


Kudos to our conductor, Caden, for making sure we didn’t!




(Park and train tracks mentioned in this post are located directly behind GiGi’s Playhouse Cleveland and were visited prior to a scheduled play date at GiGi’s, Caden’s second home.)

Blog post submitted by Caden’s proud Nana – Rhonda Wagner.

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  1. Annette Manco Brady, Playhouse Assistant on August 12, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    Oh Rhonda! This is absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t WAIT to read the next sentence of your wonderful and joy filled day with Caden! I remember that day that you and Caden came into GiGi’s Playhouse and how animated and excited you both were at his being able to stop by! Everyone here has adored your beautiful grandson since day one and we are celebrating his every milestone alongside Nana and Pop (and his proud parents, too!) Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this beautiful write up. Your words are magical, we love you, Caden and his entire family. Hope to see you again soon!

    • Rhonda Wagner on August 15, 2021 at 10:44 am

      Thank you. Annette! Yes, finally getting back to in-person visits at GiGi’s is a huge blessing to us all!

  2. Nancy on August 12, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    What a loving uplifting insight. Beautifully written. A joy and privilege to read.

    • Rhonda Wagner on August 15, 2021 at 10:45 am

      Appreciate your kind comments, Nancy. You are a great cheerleader!

  3. Sydney Shumaker on August 15, 2021 at 9:27 pm

    What a beautiful, wonderful day you had, taking care of your Grandson. It was so rewarding to be able to share it with you and experience it through reading about it.

    • Rhonda Wagner on August 17, 2021 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks for your encouraging comment, Mom! 😘

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