For those of us who have been given the gift of more than one child, and one of those children has a disability, we know it is hard for friends and family to know how to talk to us about our children.
After all, we’re a moving target: are we having a season of good, stable days with our kids? Are we in the midst of some difficult situation? Are we consumed with the issues surrounding the child with the disability? Are our non-disabled children doing something significant and interesting? Is that all happening at the same time?
Most families are moving targets, of course. But having a disabled family member seems to ramp up the complications, and those complications are often unusual. So it makes it a little, or a lot, more difficult to know how to talk with us about our children.
Which leads to two common mistakes people make:
- Not talking to us at all, or avoiding any talk about any of our children.
- Concentrating all talk to either the child with the disability, or the children without disabilities.
My parents, as we celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this weekend, reminded me of their remarkable ability to treat all their grandchildren and great-children uniquely with the same affections.
These 13 (16 if you count spouses, and my parents love their three granddaughters-in-law as well) individuals are so very different, from age (29 years to 3 weeks), education (pursuing a Ph.D. to not-yet-kindergarten), physical abilities (quite fit police officer to completely helpless babies), or even musical abilities (composer to no musical abilities at all).
But they most certainly talk about and with all those children!
My parents love them all in ways that show they know them as individuals, appreciate their particular giftings, delight in their accomplishments, are confident they can get through hard times, and never, in any circumstance, stop loving them. They are wonderful examples.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Now, certainly, grandparents have a particular interest in knowing and encouraging their legacy. And we have also been blessed by people who take a particular interest in a child of mine; I’ll post about that later.
But it is a good lesson for anyone who wants to be helpful: demonstrate an interest in all my children.