To New Parents, on Jillian’s 28th birthday

To New Parents, on Jillian’s 28th birthday

Jillian Daugherty Mavriplis turned 28 Tuesday. For 27 years and 364 days, she has made us happy and proud and better people for being her parents.

I don’t say this to paint a perfect picture. (It’s not perfect. I did say 364 days. The first day was awful.) I say it because it’s true.

The day Jillian was born, all Kerry and I wanted was for someone to tell us everything would be OK. We learned quickly that sort of verbal hug was either (1) hollow, and delivered by someone with compassion but with no hands-on experience or (2) not coming at all.

I have 28 years of experience to tell you, it’s all true. It is going to be OK. Better than OK. It’s among the greatest experiences of our lives.

New parents, this is what you have to look forward to:

  • An individual without agendas or guile, who passes no judgment. Someone who, when he/she asks you how you’re doing, actually is interested in the answer.
  • A person who, with help, will come as close to fulfilling his/her potential as anyone you know.
  • A person who represents the human ideal more closely than anyone you know.
  • Someone you’d treasure as a friend, a co-worker or a close relative. Whose compassion and empathy are always available.
  • Someone who really doesn’t Sweat The Small Stuff. Who values the people in his/her life above all else. “If you love someone, they’ll love you back,” Jillian said to me when she was in middle school. Life should be so easy.

Jillian was born the day of the San Francisco earthquake, Oct. 17, 1989. We spent the day angry, grieving and cursing God. Mostly, we were sad and scared. I’d asked God to take me, in exchange for a Jillian without Down syndrome. Request denied.

I’d shaken my fist at the world, cried a Mississippi of tears. We spent that first night in the maternity ward. In the middle of it, we went down the hall to the NICU and peered through the window to the tiny crib where Jillian slept. And we decided the grieving was done.

What happened next was a wonderful alchemy of our desires and Jillian’s will. What resulted was a lifetime of learning we’d never have experienced without our daughter with the supposed disability.

As the singer Guy Clark wrote, in the tune The Cape, “She did not know she could not fly/And so she did.”

Jillian is married, living entirely independently with her husband Ryan in a 2-bedroom townhouse for which they pay all the rent. They each graduated from high school and attended four years of college. They each work full time. They cook, clean, do laundry, walk the dog, watch TV, have date night. They are our better selves.

We learn from all our kids. They own a future we won’t see. We raise them to leave us and make the world better. We are a reflection of how well they do.

Kerry and I wouldn’t be who we are without Jillian’s instruction. We’re the lucky ones. It’s an enduring good fortune. I swear.

As always: Expect. Don’t Accept.

An Uncomplicated Life, a memoir of raising Jillian, is available on all platforms at To book speaking engagements, contact Paul or Kerry at or 513-313-9981


7 thoughts on “To New Parents, on Jillian’s 28th birthday

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  2. I love this it its home I know that exact feeling of Sarah’s birth the unknown I did know anyone with downs .She will soon turn 25 the best 25 years of my life she is loved by everyone. I would have love to give Sarah the independence that she deserves but she has so many medical problems she has to be with us always but she lives everyday happy loving life she makes everyone smile and gives the best hugs she has been though a lot birth 1 pd 3 oz to heart surgery she suffered two strokes last Christmas heart failure it has all been scary but then I look in her little face my hero a real fighter she never gives up she gets up brushes herself off on to the next thing I couldn’t be more proud of her we lover more than anything we are truly blessed parents ?????

  3. This is so beautifully written, and tugs at my heart in so many ways. Way to go, Jillian! I’m sure you are a valuable friend and a dependable co-worker. I’m sure you and your husband are truly in love, and that is a beautiful thing.

    However, I sometimes wish that parents and other advocates would tell the story of the woman who lives in a group home, can’t manage her finances alone, and is in a work program through a local non-profit. Truth be told, most of our kids, as much as we want them to, won’t excel as Jillian has.
    So let’s just accept that, and cheer on everyone, as they are trying their best do be their best selves.

  4. As usual Doc your and Kerry’s love exploads in your writing. By the way, Guy Clark is one of my favs.
    Best to you and family. Joe and Mary Lou.

  5. Paul, as always, beautifully written moments with your precious Jillian. I can appreciate what you said because of Jim, who had hydrocephlaus. He also showed me courage and indurance. It took him 4 and a half years to walk, and when he did, he had a million dollar smile that I can still see. Unfortunately, he is gone to a better place, no suffering, just peace. I miss him and his sister who is with him, every day. So, please continue to love Jillian every day.

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