Twenty-six years ago, a baby boy with profound developmental problems entered the life of my family. Today, my son is 26 years old. He has accomplished wonderful things over the years, although he’s still disabled. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned in that time.
Remember that love for and acceptance of your child are never conditional.
Despite having heard strong opinions to the contrary, I’ve never confused my son with whatever it is that afflicts him. My love for my son does not spill over into any kind of affection for his disability any more than my hatred of his disability causes me to reject my son. To me, it is no more a part of who he truly is than would be, say, an obvious injury such as a broken leg.
Do try to help your child overcome his or her issues.
We need look no further than the ministry of Jesus to see the attitude to take toward paralysis, blindness, seizures, and similar afflictions. They are rejected in the Bible, and I believe in rejecting them, too.
Of course, the protocol for fixing broken legs is considerably more straightforward than anything my wife and I heard proposed for our son. The options available to us were controversial and problematic. But we never regretted trying. We weren’t prepared to carry on with our lives without knowing we had done everything we could.
Lay down the burden.
All parents face daily challenges, and for parents of disabled kids those challenges can at times feel both daunting and endless. Again, in suggesting that we should lay down the burden, I’m not saying we should abdicate our duty to give our child every possible opportunity to improve and to enjoy life. However, when the going gets tough—and it can sometimes become very tough—consider the Old Testament prophet who said that although all around him may be turned into destruction and despair, “,,,yet I will rejoice in my God.” (Habakkuk 3:18)
To me, this means putting aside the counterproductive emotional baggage each of us carries, be it a sense of guilt or inadequacy or indeed anything that feeds our frustration and anxiety. Ultimately, we are not in control. God is. So there is no necessity for us to take events personally. Yes, our job is to do the very best we can, to become informed, to locate good resources, to use our judgment in making decisions on behalf of our child. We also need to preserve our own health and stamina, so that we will have the necessary patience and fortitude. (For example, currently I am going around and around on a tedious appeal with my son’s insurance provider.) But even doing everything right does not guarantee the outcome we want.
In the absence of that desired outcome, or until we see it, I suggest affirming that there must be a reason for what we are seeing, and that it will be made clear in due course. I think laying down the burden may be more difficult than anything else, because acknowledging in our minds that this is true does not necessarily mean we will follow through on an emotional level.
However, if we do, I think our kids will benefit.
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