When Life Doesn't Feel Equal for Our Typical Kids

There, we said it! It seems no matter where we go, our son Joey (age 37) becomes a magnet to many generous caring and loving people giving him free things! We are here to tell you that he very much enjoys the blessing, as do we. We’ve had friends and acquaintances on Facebook see things Joey enjoys (bobble heads, Christmas nutcrackers, sports hats and gear, etc.) and ask via Cindi if they can give him something. We are most blessed to allow others to bless Joey and be blessed in the process. But we find ourselves even chuckling when we are out in public and strangers sometimes do the same thing. We call  Joey our free magnet! Joey shyly says thank you and then later talks up a storm to us about how excited he is about this new gift! 

Our girls always laughed with us at the attention Joey got and have gotten used to him being the free magnet and never seemed (even as little girls) to be bothered by it. We even asked them and they said, “NO! LOL!” We all know that Joey endears himself to others just because he is “special” and often is very loving and kind (notice I’m giving some room here to let you all know he does have his moments!) 

But while there were times Joey was the center of attention and gift giving, we tried to even the score with our girls and make sure they got individual attention, too! We remember times when the children were young, we would do what we thought was very special and take time to be with just our girls. We would take Joey to Grandpa and Grandma Ferrinis where he would be happy, and then take the girls out to do something special (usually something Joey couldn’t do, wouldn’t have wanted to do, or wouldn’t have been cooperative doing!) We did this quite a few times, when behold, one of the girls said to us from the back seat of the car, “Ya know, Mom and Dad, we think you don’t love us as much as you love Joey.” Well, that took us by as much of a surprise as a snowfall in July in Cleveland, OH! 

We looked at each other and asked the girls to explain what they meant because certainly we loved them just as much! They began to explain that “Joey always gets to go to Grandpa and Grandma Ferrini’s and we don’t!” Well, we burst out laughing! 


Imagine that! All the planning and preparing of things we thought they’d enjoy, and they wanted to go to the grandparents’ house instead! Of course we explained that we did that because Joey receives so much attention and even gifts, and we never wanted them to feel left out. What a wake up call that was to be sure we included them in the planning and process of time with them. We then made sure that there were times they each got to go alone and the two of the girls together to the grandparents’ house so they didn’t feel left out, neglected, or less loved!

In this season of gift giving (free magnet or otherwise!) let’s remember as parents that we can’t keep things equal with all of our children, but we must be mindful of where they are in the thinking of these things (time, energy, money, etc.)

Take a moment and ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I making sure not to give more to one child than to others? (time, energy, financially)

  • Am I able to recognize that sometimes things won’t be able to be equal?

  • Can I talk to the children about some of these things that might be sensitive conversation?

  • Will I be able to navigate my child’s disappointment when they express something I had no idea was an issue?

  • How can I formulate the right questions to ask each child – to make sure each child is getting what they need? 

  • Am I working through each challenge in a way that allows each child to feel they are important to me/us/the family?

…and then (if you’re brave enough) ask your children who are old enough to answer these questions truthfully. Be prepared for answers you never saw coming, even in doing the best you can as a parent.

Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at www.cindiferrini.com and social media at: www.facebook.com/cindi.ferrini, www.facebook.com/UnexpectedJourney/, www.facebook.com/MyMarriageMatters/