As I write this letter I am primarily thinking of my own grandchildren who have “special needs,” and their family. I am, however, making it available to other people by including the letter as a blog post.
As a grandfather, I accept my “special needs” grandchildren may never live a “typical” life, whatever that is. I accept these children for who they are. They are unique and made in the image of God. He loves them and I can do no less.
I am so proud of your children when they reach a milestone they struggled for. They are young warriors not knowing the meaning of giving up. For instance, other people may not understand the thrill of knowing your child can now poop in the toilet. They don’t have to understand but I celebrate with you.
When I talk about my family I don’t make a big deal of it by saying something like, “I have six grandchildren and two of them are “special needs.” If part of a conversation I’m having with someone turns to bragging about grandkids kids, I brag along. I mean, why wouldn’t I? I love these children.
Before I go any farther I must make mention of an important part of your family. Other children, typical children who are part of a “special needs family,” may inadvertently be almost forgotten. If your family includes children who are “typical,” please monitor them and make sure they are doing well. Life can be lonely for such children. Give them some golden time just for them.
Believe me as a grandfather, I notice things. I can tell when a child is feeling left out. That’s where I can come into action. I can take the child out for lunch or to a movie or other fun things to do. The point is giving this child some time where he or she is spoiled for a while.
I have to admit I become somewhat angry when people exclude your children from things like birthday parties. Even if your child or children aren’t able to attend at least they can be invited. This includes family as well as friend type gatherings. There is no reason to not include children with special needs unless it is a health or safety issue. Even then an option may come up so they are not left out.
Many people make little effort to understand children with special needs. The lack of empathy they show is obvious. This is why people may seem to ignore you and your family. They don’t realize children with special needs are teachers of life. Being in their presence can expose us to our own weaknesses or strengths. These children present the “typical” population with a choice. The choice is to accept or reject them.
As parents I know your lives may differ from the lives of typical parents in a number of ways. I think of being diligent in keeping your calendar up to date. This is not for the purpose of scheduling barbecues with family or friends etc. Your calendar is used more for life and health purposes. This includes regular therapy or specialist and other related appointments. These are integral to monitoring your child’s day-to-day life.
Due to the health challenges your child or children live with there are experiences, situations, and events etc. beyond your control. Most times you can only dream of such things as getting away for the weekend or even planning vacations. This is the reality of your lives.
I see your world and now mine through the lens of a grandfather. Through this lens I see I have taken on a greater love for life. I see life is fragile and even enigmatic. As I look through my grandfather filter I see not all of life is black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. Life just is and it includes mystery!
There is mystery in the reality of special needs as it pertains to life. How is it one child or even two or three children in one family may have special needs? How does this happen? This is such a mystery. Perhaps the best thing to do, the most human thing I can do is accept these children. Accept them by seeing beyond their “special needs” and see them for who they are.
You see, in accepting children and other people with “special needs,” I may see my own needs. I may then see acceptance means love. As a grandfather I do not merely accept my grandchildren I love them. They are part of me.
I am getting older by the day. I look back over my life and I see there are more days behind me than in front of me. I know I may miss out on certain years of my grandchildren. I may be taken ill and no longer able to make a trip to see them. If this happens I trust they will always know how much I love them. This will never end.
All my love,