Spinning plates for all of us on the special needs journey is a “norm.” We know we can do it: spin a lot of plates all at one time, keeping them going, running from plate to plate and not letting any of them fall—because we have to. For many of us, it’s an instant reflex action and reaction in the care of our children with special needs. Others might watch in amazement, because they can see that we know the drill, and we have it somewhat mastered. That’s a good thing, because we don’t always have people offer to join in, help out, or take over! We are grateful for those who help!
We have been blessed to have many helping hands in the care of our son. In the scheme of caring for a person with special needs, our son requires less care than many of our friends’ children who have special needs. Joey is able to occupy himself nicely throughout the day, but when it comes to being on his own? That’s out of the question, even when we’d like to go a different direction!
Often, when we talk about our children with special needs, we talk about their limitations, challenges, and the things they have accomplished. It’s always a joy to share the victories in the midst of what is often a lot of work, scheduling, and coordinating a lot of people to help make it happen. But as parents of Joey who is 38, we are also very aware that while we have a lot we need to do with and for him, there are also a lot of things we’ve never had to worry about or be concerned about.
Perhaps you can relate, too! We have never had to worry about:
FRIENDS. Sadly, Joey hasn’t had a lot of friends, but in the course of school and work he has had people around him that have cared well for him, and watched out for his safety. Family members have been his friends. Having special needs has taken away the guesswork about who his friends are, who he’s hanging around, and who’s influencing him—for good or bad. Joey seems satisfied with us, other family members, with the groups from school and other care options. For this, we give thanks. On the flip side, our typical children gave us opportunities to really watch with whom they are and were associated.
DRINKING. No matter how we raise our children, their friends have influence on them. When they’re out and about, there is no way to know 100% what is “going on.” Because Joey is always in someone’s care, he’s never been out and about, making us wonder if he’s behaving! Even though he’s always supervised, we have a funny story about Joey and drinking. My sister enjoys wine tasting and often cares for Joey. He’s gone with her and some of her friends on occasion to wine tastings. A few times, he’s had a taste. One time I asked him if he liked going to the wine tastings and he said, “Yes. I like red.” Oh my! He doesn’t drink, but he has tasted!
DISOBEYING CURFEW. Except for when he was a non-sleeping baby, Joey has always needed sleep. As a 38 year-old, he really needs about 8-10 hours of sleep. One time while traveling, he was so tired, he slept at our air B&B for 24 hours, with the exception of getting up on time for meals. We all were amazed! Needless to say, he is always in bed where he belongs when he needs to be and we are thankful!
GOING TO WAR. Joey would never be able to serve, but he did get military service information as an 18 year-old. I called the local military office and told the person to whom I spoke, “Our son has multiple special needs and would not be fit to serve.” The man I spoke to showed much care in his response, for which I was appreciative. Both Joe and I had a sense of relief that our son wasn’t going to leave us, and made us think about what it might be like for those whose sons and/or daughters did serve and perhaps didn’t return home. It gave us a new and different perspective.
ABUSING DRUGS/ADDICTIONS. Without going into detail, our family has experienced the challenges of a loved one with an addiction. It caused hardship to the person with the addiction and to the families involved. While our son has had various challenges, we are thankful this wasn’t one of them. Thinking about Joey’s challenges reminds to pray for those whose challenge and worry is addiction.
Depending on the challenge of the special needs, our children experience so many hard things: some mental challenges, some emotional challenges, learning difficulties, mobility issues, and so much more. Sometimes it’s good to stop and take an inventory of what we haven't had as a worry or challenge. Perhaps making a list would be helpful for each of us today. Then let’s give thanks that we won’t need to worry or be concerned about some things when other things overwhelm us.
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/