Years ago a sweet family regularly attended our church that had been been blessed with two children who had Downs Syndrome. The mom and I occasionally served together in children’s ministry, and I had the opportunity to get to know her teenage daughter who was (if I recall correctly) about 14-15 years old. Her son was a few years younger.
Over time, I believe they moved on to a different place to worship, and several years passed before I saw the mom again. She was a really amazing woman…strong physically and emotionally and pretty to boot. Thick hair and a great jawline. Anyhow, when we finally got to talk for a few minutes she shared with me how “this time of year” was always hard for her.
What time of year?
Graduation time. Awards ceremonies. Sports banquets.
The time of year where every parent enjoys bragging through social media about the year end accomplishments of their children. The sum total of all those hours spent doing homework, carting them from one practice to the next, dealing with the emotional and physical bumps and bruises that come with high school. You and your child lived to tell the tale of conquering enough academics and sports and volunteering and now there’s a grad party…a trophy…a valedictorian or a college sendoff.
This sweet momma said it was just the most challenging thing to endure…to see all the things her daughter and son would never be able to do. It brought forth so many worries– what would become of her children as they aged? What amount of independence would they ever attain?
This was a good mama. She had great kids…but they also had huge challenges. She struggled with all the same fears that teens of parents do, with the added pressure of her children’s lack of ability to comprehend. These were teens who had the normal fleshly desires of every teen, the normal want for independence…all without the understanding to make decisions commensurate with their ages. My heart broke for her and I had not a word of advice.
But I remember her sad eyes and quivering lips. “Graduation season is just the hardest. To be so happy for so many others and struggle so hard with our own children.”
Those of you with children who have special needs, learning disabilities, and extenuating circumstances that make regular milestones seem improbable, I remember and pray for you today. I ask all my readers to do the same. Think about your neighbors, family, and friends who are facing the very real limitations and struggles of raising a special needs child. Lift them up in prayer that they may be given wisdom by the very loving Creator of their “especially created” child.