i’m thankful my kids are growing up with cousins with special needs.

Some people could take this statement the wrong way when I say that I’m thankful that my children are growing up with two cousins that have cerebral palsy.  I would never wish any disabilities on anyone, and I would never wish these struggles on any parent.  I have seen first-hand the difficulties that my niece has gone through learning about their disorders, recognizing their “normal” and how to help them flourish in a world that was not made to fit their needs.  My niece and I were pregnant at the same time with due dates three days apart.  The difference was her twins were born at 24 weeks, and my child was born at full term.  Her babies were not estimated to live more than a day.  Their lives have been miracles from the start.  While she was unsure that hers would even live, my child was born with no difficulties at all.  We each have kids that are the same age but are vastly different.

I had already had a one-year-old at the time, and I have had four other babies since then.  They don’t remember a time when Anna and Abbie had not been in their lives.  We even lived together for the first couple years of the twins’ lives, so my kids were accustomed to all the things that made them special.  They knew that Abbie could not breathe without her oxygen machine, which was due to pulmonary hypertension in her prematurity.  They knew that the girls had to eat through feeding tubes and couldn’t always eat with their mouths like they could.  They witnessed their meltdowns that consisted of only grunts and screaming, because they didn’t know how to speak.  They knew that Abbie needed a wheelchair, and Anna had “magic shoes,” so tag wasn’t a game that they could play, but there were so many others that they could be included in to have fun with the kids, too.

Most importantly, they saw that this is their “normal,” and being different is not scary nor intimidating.  Anna and Abbie have taken a lot longer than my kids to reach their developments.  They will never “the same,” but I have taught my children that they will always be equals and should be included as such.  Regardless of what their disorder hinders them from doing, they still laugh and play like any other child can.  They still enjoy being tickled, playing patty cake and playing with blocks.  They love music, baby dolls and cuddles.  When there is something that they need assistance with, such as getting a toy that is beyond their reach, my kids know to go out of their way to help them.  After all, if it were my children in their shoes, then I know that my niece would have taught them to do the same.

My only hope is that this teaches my kids to grow up with a big heart towards those that appear different than they do.  I pray that they strive to make them feel their sense of normalcy in a society where they are so often pushed to the side.  I want them to know that it is never an inconvenience to take a little more time with someone that needs it.  I encourage them to ask me all the questions they may have so they can learn more about cerebral palsy in hopes that they will be able to educate others, as well.  I want my children to be a voice for those that can’t speak up for themselves, because they have two special people in their lives that deserve one.  We are all made perfectly in God’s eyes, and I pray that my children make sure that others feel like they are, too.

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