We live in a small rural community where everyone knows who we are. They don’t all know us personally, but we kind of stand out. Going in and out of local businesses with Ladybug in her high-tech power wheelchair and AFO braces around both her feet, they all know who we are. When most people see us however they only see the so-called burdens of having a special needs child. They don’t see the blessings. I don’t know how many times people have said things like “I could never do what you’re doing” “she’s so lucky to have you” “I don’t know how you do it”. Can I tell you a secret? Yes, raising a special needs child is hard, really hard. But the blessings that have come from having a special needs child far outweigh everything else. The following are some of my favorite blessings Ladybug has given me.
Better Appreciation For the Little Things When you have a child with a disability like Ladybug (cerebral palsy) you learn to appreciate the little things. The simplest family outing will make her day. It’s so fun to see her level of excitement grow so quickly in what many people would find routine. One of her favorite activities is just to sit on a lap and read a book. She finds so much joy in reading the same book over and over again. Her laugh is the sweetest most contagious laugh you will ever hear. You would have to be the Grinch if you heard her laugh and it doesn’t warm your heart and make you smile. Although she does ask to go to Disney World almost everyday, it truly is the little things in life we have come to enjoy together.
Finding Celebrations in Little Accomplishments It is so easy to overlook the small accomplishments in life. Ladybug has taught me that the little things really are big things. Something that might seem so routine to you and me can be huge for someone else. I’ve learned to rejoice with people when they accomplish something. We don’t always know how much of a struggle it was for that person to achieve their goal. The first time Ladybug rolled over. She was 14 months old, I was so excited and made sure everyone around knew what she accomplished. I mean 14 months and she had just rolled over! Most kids are walking by this point. It was a moment for celebration.
She Hasn’t Outgrown the Desire to Cuddle Ok, so physically she’s getting bigger. We might need to start looking at some over-sized comfy chairs. But Grasshopper hasn’t wanted to spend time cuddling for years (at least not for anything longer than 1 minute). Ladybug on the other hand loves to cuddle. This is one of my favorite blessings. I just love that she doesn’t think she’s too old, or too cool to cuddle with mommy.
A Better Understanding of the Special Needs Community Let’s be honest. Unless you have an immediate family member you live with full time, you will never fully understand this life. That’s ok, I don’t expect you to. It’s hard to fully understand something if you haven’t experienced it. If you are a therapist, special ed teacher, PCA, or caretaker you have a pretty good idea, but that’s still just an idea. Unless this is your life 24/7 it’s just hard to fully understand. It is full of demands, stress, paperwork (oh the paperwork, don’t even get me started), appointments etc.
Since becoming a special needs parent I can understand and have compassion for these individuals and their families. I no longer access someone’s parenting skills based on something I see at Target. For all I know, that child might be living with an unseen disability (like Autism for example). When I see other special needs individuals, I want to encourage them. I see other special needs moms and I know what they’re going through. The level of appreciation I have for them is runs deep. They do so much and most of it goes unseen.
Clearer Vision of Priorities It is so easy for us to be consumed with any and every activity/hobby that comes our way. When you have a special needs child a lot of those activities aren’t even an option. While some people (and admittedly myself at times) can see this as a burden, it can actually be a blessing. How many times do all of those activities start to take over your life and what you once held as your priorities? Priorities like family time, church on Sunday mornings, eating dinner every night as a family. Having a special needs child helps us stay grounded in what’s truly important in life. It has reminded us of our priorities, and what’s most important to our family values.
Stronger Marriage This one can be tricky. Divorce rates for special needs parents are high, and I can see why. The levels of stress, demands on your time and energy are through the roof. It is taxing to you physically, emotionally, and mentally. At the end of the day you don’t have much left to take care of yourself, let alone energy to maintain your relationship. I’m not gonna sugar coat it. It’s hard work. It takes effort and determination. I’ve been blessed with an amazing husband. When he comes home from work he jumps right in along side of me. He is the very definition of a teammate. Somehow, with God’s grace, being special needs parents has only made our marriage stronger. Of all the blessings mentioned above, this is probably the most important.
So instead of taking pity on special needs families, remember our lives are full of blessings. It is hard. But, everything that is worth it is hard. I wouldn’t trade Ladybug for the world.
What are some blessings you’ve experienced as a special needs family? Comment below, I would LOVE to hear them!