Preparing the hearts of the special needs sibling

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

I wanted to jump right in the conversation, but I held my tongue.  Anxious to see how my Ava would handle the situation.  Taking deep breaths as to not lose my Jesus in the interim.  

We have only this year really started to bring Alli out and about.  Her lungs and heart, her health, taking precedence over outings in public places. 

“Is she your sister?” a little girl at dance asked. 

“Yeah,”  replied Ava.

“She looks special needs,” the girl responded. 

“No, she doesn’t.  She has some special needs.  She has brain damage and other stuff.  That’s my baby sister, Alli,” Ava proudly replied.   


“Oh, that's sad.  Well, she’s really cute,” said the little girl, giggling watching Alli turning in circles.   

“Thanks,” Ava replied and ran off to dance class.

I’ve often wondered what life will look like in a few years.  When Alli is out and about more, when she’s in school.  Will her sisters protect her?  Are they armed with the right words?  The right explanations?  The right confidence to explain Alli is not less of or more than they are because she has extra needs? 

One of my greatest desires as a mother is to instill self-assurance, self-respect, and strength within my girls in who they are.  In who others are.  That they don’t find that confidence, self-respect, and strength in what they can and cannot do.  No more than they find it in what others can or cannot do.  That they look at themselves and all others they come in contact with as beautifully matchless children of God.  

The interaction at the dance studio taught this Mama bear a huge life lesson.  I could have easily jumped in and told that little girl every single thing Alli has been through and why she walks the way she does.  Why she makes noises instead of talks.  Why she spins in circles and flaps her arms.  Why she walks on her toes and rarely makes eye contact.  Why she chews on her hands.  

But that interaction was just the first of many more to come behind, I feel certain.  And while I am hopefully instilling self-respect, confidence, and strength I pray I am also teaching them responsibility with their emotions and their words.  The little girls comment hurt me because as their parent, my first response is protectionBut the words didn’t hurt Ava.  She proudly explained, in her 6 year old understanding, what Alli deals with and shut the door to anymore questions.  She didn’t even remotely become defensive.  My feelings were not her feelings that day and I am oh, so thankful.  I sat in the chair within an ears reach I thought to myself how I never wanted my words or reactions to become theirs.  I never want my feelings or my side of the story to dictate how they feel and react.  

In teaching my girls what to say when “that day comes that someone makes fun of your sister,” I failed to encourage and allow them the opportunity to simply answer for themselves how they feel.  I failed to allow their strength and confidence dictate their reactions and response to questions and stares.  Placing my own motherly protective and defensive feelings on them.  Telling them how they should feel and what they should say.   

Just yesterday I asked my oldest, Anna Claire, what she would do if someone said something insulting towards Alli...

she replied, 

“I’d throat punch them.”  

Giggling sets in (and shock from this Mama). 

“Naaaahhhh, I’d tell them she was born way too early.  That she has cerebral palsy and autism.  And that she’s worked reallllly hard to be where she is today.”    

And suddenly I realize we’re probably going to be ok these next few years.  

As long as no one is throat punched, of course. ;-)


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