Family Life

5 Lessons My Children Are Learning From Their Brother’s Special Needs

I have 5 children, but only one of them has special needs. Sometimes I’ve wondered what life would have been like if we only had our son. Perhaps, I would’ve been able to focus on certain aspects of his needs if he was our only child. But then, I consider that each member of our family has had an integral part in the growth and development of our son. And as I ponder this even more, my children have been able to glean important life lessons because of their brother’s special needs.

Lessons on Patience

This is probably the big one. As children get older, effective oral communication becomes more vital in relationship building. Communication being one of my son’s weaknesses, you can imagine that friendships with his peers are rare. If you stick him in a playground full of kids of all ages, you will likely find him running around with the toddlers.

When other children his age can simply ignore him, his siblings can’t do that and still live under the same roof. But to do that peaceably, they have to learn patience. Patience when he can’t fully express what he wants. Patience when he misunderstands them. Patience when he repeats his questions multiple times and expects them to go along with it.

Lessons on Sympathy

Tied to patience, my children are learning how to sympathize. Without sympathy, the appearance of patience is, in reality, like a covered pot that can boil over at any second if left over the heat too long. True patience is motivated by a genuine sympathy for the challenges of another. When a child has a difficult time asking me a question at the dinner table because of too much chatter from the others, it’s an opportunity to remind them that their brother faces that struggle everyday but at ten times the volume.

Lessons on Impartiality

I love how our 2-year-old girl claims no favorites among her siblings. She spends time with each and every one of them without partiality. When the world can be so cruel to the ones who dance to a different beat, I’m thankful for the acceptance and love that my son can receive from his sister. Little ones don’t struggle with this. They have no perception of “differentness” in people. It’s a valuable lesson my older children are learning when they realize that sometimes they may have to forego playing with 5 friends in order to come alongside their brother in need of one friend.

Lessons on Prayer

We face challenges daily, multiple times each day. This is not a runny nose that lasts only a few days. This is our life. And though our son thrives on repetition and requires predictable routines, changes in his anxieties and obsessions abound. And we are all affected. No amount of expert help can sufficiently ease the burden that this has presented for our family. Our children must learn that as often as we are met with these trials, so should our meetings with God be.

Lessons on Love

Shortly after an especially upsetting confrontation with their brother, one of my kids tearfully expressed, “How could I love someone who is being mean to me?” And though my heart ached for my child’s frustration, the Lord gave me the perfect opportunity to give the perfect answer.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8

My children may manifest patience, possess sympathy, display impartiality, and utter prayers for their brother, but he can still hurt their feelings. How difficult it is to love someone who is most unlovely! But on the cross, Jesus did.

Does your special needs child have siblings? What lessons do you want them to learn?

5 Lessons My Children are Learning from Their Brother's Special Needs

Family Life, Guest Post, Trusting God

God is Bigger

For a young couple expecting their first child, a doctor's appointment for an ultrasound would undoubtedly be an exciting time. It is when countless other couples have heard, "You're having a boy!" or "Get ready for your baby girl!" It is also a time when they would hear the words, "Baby is doing well!" But not this time ... Not for my friend and her husband 15 years ago. What she has faced since the days of her pregnancy, when doctors told her she would give birth to a child with physical and mental challenges, have been used by The Lord to strengthen her faith and bring her back to the amazing truth that Jesus is her all in all. This post was written by her.

 

“God is bigger than the boogie man, He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV. Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man, and He’s watching out for you and me.” Do these words ring a bell? If you’ve been around children at all, then you’ll know that these are some of the very words that have unwittingly gotten stuck in our heads and hummed as we’ve gone about our day. As catchy as these tunes are, the words are what make them quite remarkable in their simplicity. God is bigger. Yes, bigger and incomparably greater than anything. Yes, even Godzilla.

prayingOne of my children recently said to me, “Mom, can we pray to God right now? He’s big. He’s bigger than anything. That’s why we can pray to Him.” Such a simple truth that I often forget it as I go about my day. This simple comment from my son triggered the remembrance of the Veggie Tales song and brought to mind a couple of things God had been showing me about Himself during that time. God is BIG!

I’m mom to David, born almost 15 years ago with multiple anomalies and a syndrome that brought with it moderate to severe retardation. God also saw fit to bless us with 3 more children after David. As a mom of a child with physical and mental challenges (see my previous guest post), there has been a very specific fear that continually lingers in the back of my mind. Will my other children, David’s younger siblings, be bitter toward him for who he is? I know this sounds odd or possibly confusing, so I’ll elaborate a bit.

On the one side, David is a very sweet and cuddly dude. He loves to give high fives and gives the best hugs. On the flip side of the same coin, he can be inconsiderate (mean); sometimes purposely, other times, unknowingly. His tantrums are a big issue. A constant part of our lives is his consistent tantrums in private and in public. We have to leave restaurants prematurely or wait around while he finishes a tantrum on the sidewalk of a public place. Out of the blue, he would yank a sibling’s hair or pinch. Most times, there is no trigger. He just does it. My other children often get discouraged and say, “Why does he have to ruin everything all the time?!” “Why is he sooo mean?” I get it. It’s hard. I (who have been saved 20+ years) have a hard time.

The fear that my children would not love, appreciate, or extend grace to their big brother can gnaw on me at times. What do we do? How do we move forward? What more can we do to encourage them to be patient with their brother? Uncertainties come with life. Fear is a natural reaction of the flesh. But, what do we do when fear creeps in? We remember our infinitely BIGGER, infinitely WISER, and lovingly sovereign God. In 2 Kings 6:15-18, it says,

Terracotta HorsesWhen the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

Our God is the same God Elisha worshipped. The infinitely big God was able to protect Elisha from his enemies in a fashion that showed His great power and sovereignty. HE IS IN CONTROL. This is our God.

In Joshua 1, God gives a mighty, scary charge to Joshua. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (v. 9) We have a God who is with us wherever we go, even within the four walls of our home. He is faithful. We can be strong and courageous as we face the uncertainties and fears of life because He hears our cries to Him; He is able to answer our prayers according to His perfect will. He is all powerful and more than able to protect us. This is our God; the God of Elisha and Joshua.

So, when we hear the words “God is bigger than the boogie man,” I hope that we will be reminded of the truth that is in those words. We have an infinitely big God, with infinite wisdom, who is infinitely powerful….and He is on our side.

 

(I hope this encouraged you today that no matter how enormous and overwhelming your circumstances seem to be, God is immeasurably bigger. If you would like to read my friend's story of how God first unveiled this amazing miracle in her life, click here).

(Photo credit 1: Andythedreamer)
(Photo credit 2: televiseus)

Family Life, Homeschool

Sibling Rivalry?

Full Siblings

When our daughter, Tamara, approached Kindergarten age, we began to wonder how our homeschooling days were going to work out. I was hoping to get Gabriel to work more independently before Tamara began Kindergarten, but he still needed a lot of oversight and hand-holding. My husband and I considered enrolling her in our public school, so that I would continue to have more one-on-one time with Gabriel. I was torn. I knew it would be more challenging to continue to homeschool Gabriel and add another student to our class, but Tamara had proven to be a huge help already, like keeping the younger ones occupied while I worked with Gabriel. In the end, we decided to keep her home, but we don’t know if we’ll continue to do so, especially when the other younger children approach school age.

I met a homeschool mom recently, who also has a child with special needs. She and her husband decided to enroll their younger child in public school for the same reason we considered it. She was heart-broken when she discovered that this child was struggling with loneliness and feeling like all his mom’s attention is always on his big brother. My heart went out to her. I’m sure she is doing her best with all her children, and if she could clone herself, she would. I certainly would.

Spending some one-on-one time with each child, doing something fun, has been helpful for us in fostering good relationships with them. When it’s just you and them, they feel special. You don’t have to plan anything elaborate. Tamara and I will sometimes just spend a few minutes lying down on her bed or on my bed, having “girl talk”. She looks forward to those times. Or, when I have to take one of the children to a doctor’s appointment, I try to make the most of that time by making a quick trip somewhere after the appointment. A visit to the dollar store to pick out a fun toy is always highly anticipated. And, I’m always pleasantly surprised that they want to pick out toys for their siblings as well. And, since it only costs a dollar each, I’m willing to splurge.

(Photo source: Wikipedia)