Encouraging Our Typical Children
Trying to find the perfect words to say when our children are struggling with an issue can be a challenge. Rarely in the moment do we feel we said exactly the right thing. It seems all too often I come up with the best things to say after my child has left the room. This happened just recently as I was visiting with my teen daughter. We sat in our living room as she shared her struggles wishing she was better at many things and wishing she had different physical features. She said, “Mom if I had just one thing that stood out or was great about me. I could accept being short if I had a great smile. Or, I would take long, nice legs if I couldn’t change my smile. And, I’m good at things like singing, but not great. Someone always sings better than me. I don’t want to be famous, I just wished I was at least notable.”
Many years before this discussion took place in our living room, my husband and I had started on the journey of building our family through adoption. We adopted four beautiful children. All four of our children came to us with a special needs label or diagnosis. Our two oldest children have the most significant developmental and intellectual delays. Our third child had an at-risk label of developing issues due to his birth mother’s poor health and lack of prenatal care. He was healthy and has flourished. He is in college and looking toward new adventures in young adulthood. Our fourth child was a beautiful little girl we named after my grandmother. She has a diagnosis of cleidocranial dysplasia that has affected her growth and has had a large impact on her teeth and smile. Her stature is short and she has had multiple oral surgeries, but what she lacks in stature, she makes up for in character and personality! She is smart, capable and has a distinct sparkle in her eyes. Her diagnosis has certainly influenced her self-image, but to others, she presents as a typical teenager. With her one brother at college, she is living at home with her two special needs siblings. She is 15 years old and she knows more about serving others than most adults will know in a lifetime. She knows how to love unconditionally and she shows it every day.
Yet, she doesn’t think she is notable. As her mom, I struggle to convince her otherwise. She thinks I’m saying nice things because I’m her mom. If I can’t convince her, I’m out to convince everyone else. Those who know a sibling of a special needs person know they are one of the greatest kinds of humans. They know a great deal about not being selfish. They know how to adapt and go with plan B when plan A won’t work for the day. They know how to gently take a hand and lead someone or help another. Speaking of gently taking a hand, if there was a perfect balance of strength and gentleness, they have it. It’s not physical strength, but a strength that embodies stamina, resilience and perseverance. They also know how to be gentle when on occasion their own special needs sibling is not being gentle or kind to them. Being part of a special needs family takes an all-in kind of attitude. One of the few things most of them don’t know is how amazing these traits are and how few people have them.
Sitting with my daughter in our living room, I stumbled over my words to encourage her. I realized she wasn’t the only one with a struggle. I had my own, the struggle to find the right words that would communicate truth to her about herself. Her being a typical sibling to a special needs brother and sister is not all that defines her, but it multiplies her beauty and strengths in such wonderful ways. After she left the room, I committed to finding the words…
Choose truth, precious girl,
You are more than notable.
I wished you saw with my eyes,
The girl I see,
The woman that will be.
I see strength
Ability to love unconditionally.
I see your hand in another’s hand,
Your time given away,
Forfeiting your own plan.
I see you seeing others,
Looking beyond yourself,
To those often not seen.
I see your feet walking,
Instead of rushing ahead,
I see you doing
Small and big things,
For those who cannot do.
As your heart
Grows wonderful fruits,
Love, joy, patience, and gentleness too.
I see the world,
And know what it says is beautiful,
But it’s no comparison to you!
Now see what your mama sees,
Understand the world measures differently.
Choose the truth you are beautiful,
As beautiful as can be!
All four of these beautiful children are so special! I had the great pleasure of meeting them and getting to know their loving and giving parents. Each of these children were given the best possible home and family. They are so blessed to have been adopted by Joe and Kim. Good response to Allison Kim!
Thank you! I love when I run across pictures of you with my kiddos! Remember when you went with me to a Special Olympics event? I was so touched that day you went along to cheer them on! Thanks for reading the post, it encourages me!
Perfect, honest, and beautiful- just like you friend! God has and will continue to use your strengths and example.
Thank you! I value your feedback and treasure your friendship! 30+ years and counting!
Describes so beautifully how our own special needs son has affected the character development of our two beautiful daughters. I believe all of us with special needs children posess a new level of compassion and understanding limitations.
Thank you for reading the post and letting me know it resonated with you. I agree we have all learned so much from our special children! They make us better in so many ways!
So beautifully worded Kim. I love your family, who are each so special to me. I’m blessed that God planned for our paths to cross all those years ago. I treasure your friendship and encouragement.
Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and sharing kind words. You have meant so much to our family and over the years have made a large investment in my children, thank you! Yes, I’m so Glad God planned for our paths to cross nearly 23 years ago!
Morning after Thanksgiving 2020, sitting in a quiet house and was led back to spend some time with your journey and words. Just what I needed. I remember so many years ago in my parents backyard, at home for a class reunion, we made the connection of our special kids, taylor and Nate. My gosh, looking back I was 1000% all over the place, having no idea of the lifelong journey of struggles and joys ahead! So many days where I am absolutely sure this wonderful child was given to me by mistake…so many days where I question if God equipped me to be the Mom she needs….yet somehow we have managed to squeak out some days where I would say we actually “thrive”! Blessings to you Kim and your ministry. Keep sharing your encouragement!
Ann, thank you so much for this message! I remember our visits, and treasure each one. You have been an encouragement to me for years. I love all you do for Taylor. You both radiate joy to all those around you. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by the site, and to let me know. We need another reunion!