Thursday, April 29, 2010

The "Upside" of Having A Special Needs/Disabled/Handicapped Child


To most people looking in, having a disabled child seems hard, sad, difficult, exhausting, disappointing, etc. Well, they would be right. BUT, there are some wonderful blessings that come from Della being in our family. She has taught us so many things some of the more obvious being undconditional love, gratitude, long-suffering, patience, meekness, innocence, sacrifice, faith, hope, and charity. Some of the not so obvious things we've learned include wants vs. needs, the ins and outs of insurance, the miracle that our bodies are (chemistry, biology, metabolics, genetics, brain function, the complexity of seemingly simple actions like walking, etc.), time management (still learning this one), and finding joy in simple things. Sometimes I feel bad for those who don't have a child like Della. How do people learn and grow and make needed changes without serious motivation? I had no idea what life was about until I had her. I thought I had "the basics" down, but I really feel like Della helped me to grow up.

There isn't a day (an hour?) that goes by that I don't think about Della. What will her future be like? How will we take care of her as adult? Will she learn to walk or talk? When will children stop inviting her to birthday parties? Will the youth at church include her in activities (or not)? Will we be able to serve missions for our church when we retire? What will happen to her if we die first? The list goes on. However there are some "perks" that come with Della. I thought I would name a few here starting with the more trivial and ending with the most important.

Handicapped parking. Need I say more?

Muscles and exercise. Della is getting bigger and my arms now resemble Angelina Jolie's. Della is also my exercise and this is how I have lost 45 lbs.

Front of the line pass at Disneyland. Della says "Waiting in line is for suckers!"

Special Events. There are a lot of opportunities for handicapped children and their families to get backstage access, meet celebrities, and other unique opportunities. Next year we hope to go to the Houston Rodeo's Lil' Rustlers Rodeo where disabled children (and their siblings) can learn about and try different rodeo events with the pro's. Plus, they get to ride a horse around Reliant Stadium. Hello? Who wouldn't want to do that?

No sassiness or talking back. At least for now.

I can dress her however I want. Read cute.

We are hilarious to her...
Most people really are nice. So many people don't get to experience the kindness that exists in the world. An elderly man helped me to load Della onto a tram despite his own physical ailments. A few of the doctors and many of the nurses and therapists we've worked with have shed tears of true sadness as well as true joy. Some of them have become close friends. Or meeting another mother whose child also has a disability. Even if our children are complete opposites, sometimes you make eye contact and you realize that you have found someone who understands and who knows. Nothing like crying with a stranger in the middle of Target!

No worries about teenage pregnancy, illicit drug use, etc. Della probably won't know about tragedy, the meanness, or the unhappiness that most of us experience in this life.

I am way stronger than I thought. I can do hard things.

We are blessed with a special love for Della. I don't love her more than Archer, but I do love her in a different way. Della is the cutest, sweetest, most perfect child to me. I love her so much that it is hard to leave her and it is this love that helps to overcome any feelings of exhaustion, frustration, and keeps me from becoming overwhelmed. Everything she does is funny. At every meal, whenever she is done eating, Della throws all leftover food onto the floor. All of it must be out of her sight including her plate and cup. It makes a HUGE mess after every meal. But it is so funny to Chad, Archer, and me. We try not to let her see us laugh, but sometimes we can't hide it. I am laughing to myself right now. If Archer had done this at any age, I am pretty sure I wouldn't have thought this funny in the least. I just now went downstairs and took a picture of where she sits. This is after breakfast and lunch for just today...


My son will be a more compassionate person...
Have you ever met a family that has a severely handicapped child that also has a "wayward child?" Me neither. I am not saying that those families don't exist nor am I saying my son is perfect. But, I can already see differences in his perspective when compared with other children. This makes me both happy and sad. I don't think we have to worry about Archer ending up in jail for robbing a bank. Don't quote me on that though.

As her mom and dad, we will always be Della's favorite...


She has "made it."
In our church, we believe that all children are innocent until they reach the age of accountability (when they can choose for themselves between right and wrong). This is why we wait until children turn 8 years-old to baptize them instead of performing this saving and necessary ordinance when they are infants. Della may not ever reach that age mentally speaking. If she ever voiced her desire to baptized and if we felt she understood what that meant, of course we would not deny her this opportunity. But, if she never fully reaches this "age of accountability" then we believe that when she dies, she will go to heaven, just as a child who dies before they turn 8. Talk about motivation! Suddenly earning my place beside her is very important to me.

10 comments:

Lisa said...

Caitlin, I LOVE this post. What a wonderful attitude you have! I especially love that you mention that Della will make Archer a more compassionate person. That is so true. Before Jake was born, when we weren't sure how he would come to us, we talked about what he might do for his brothers and sisters. Although we didn't end up dealing with those things, that thought is still precious to me. I also love that you mention that now you know you can do hard things.

Belle of the Blues said...

Beautiful post, Caitlin. Thanks for sharing.

ruth said...

This post could not have come on a better day. How did you know? Also, in the Della scissorhands post...how in the hell did you get that combed out?!!!

Jen said...

Loved this post Caitlin. And so true about Archer...when I worked at my camp, we had a sibling session. Ryan & I were both SO impressed with the sibs that were there (we had the oldest campers). They were truly the kindest & most wonderful kids I have ever worked with & I attributed it to their family. There's a level of empathy that most kids don't learn right off...Archer will. Oh, and I can be trivial too...can we go to Disneyland together!?!!? :) I promise not to lose Archer ;o)

Amy said...

Super sweet. Thanks Caitlin. You have handled this new life of yours with grace that we can all learn from. I love the example that you are to me.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

You can do hard things.

What a beautiful gratitude bullet list. I'm going to look for the happy today.

Kellyanne said...

you are the perfect mommy for della, she is so lucky to have you! and so is archer!

Beth said...

Thank you for this beautiful post...do you mind if I quote you in a Relief Society lesson?

I had to laugh of the picture of her breakfast and lunch that she was not interested in eating...I'm glad your family laughs too.

Marti said...

WOW, I'm speechless. This was beautiful. I'd like to quote parts of it in my next church talk/lesson/family night/ whatever comes up. Thank you for your perspective. I'll be out to see you towards the end of summer (with or without my significant other)!!!

Diana said...

Love your blog! I wanted to add my two cents as someone who is married to a man with a special needs sibling. They make great spouses and are unusually good at communicating. I really think learning to listen and speak clearly came from working with a brother who struggled severely in this task. Loved the post and may I just say, the Edward Scissorhands post was so dang funny!