I think moose are just about the cutest and grandest animals that God thought to create. They are gentle giants unless, of course, you make them angry-- then they’ll just stomp you. But, still, they are cute, and awkward, and beautiful all at the same time. Adorable.
Danielle, my middle child, was born two weeks early. She came in just under seven pounds, and not quite twenty inches long. She is the tiniest baby I birthed, and the easiest, most laid-back baby about everything else. By seven weeks she was sleeping through the night and mostly content about nursing, being held, being in her crib, and being a baby. It was awesome.
So, she was my tiniest for all of two weeks. She grew so fast! By the time she was two years old she was wearing size six (child) clothing. When she was learning to walk at twelve months, she had a size seven (child) foot. Fast forward to fifteen and a half years, and she is just over six feet and one inch tall, and wears a ladies' size twelve shoe. She is my moose. I called her that early on, which mortified my mother, but it's stuck with her. She is cute and awkward, and beautiful -- inside and out - all at the same time.
She is my middle child, but she is also my oldest child. She developmentally is older than Tommy, so she has two birth-order places to fill. Growing up in between two special needs siblings has been challenging, but we truly believe in the purpose of each of our lives in our family, and how God has orchestrated us being together. Danielle is special, too, and is definitely growing with grace.
I forget, in fact, a lot of times that she is only fifteen. She is an old soul, and has been fifteen going on thirty all year long. She helps me out immensely, and approaches problems and conflict with a very unique wisdom. It is wisdom I definitely didn't have at fifteen, or twenty, for that matter. So, when she reminds me she’s fifteen with typical teenage angst or drama, I'm usually pretty floored. We definitely have our moments! Danielle, though, is a natural teacher, and a very patient sister for the most part. She isn't a saint (yet); she does argue for her way with her siblings, but siblings will be siblings- even those with special needs.
Danielle is also a very talented musician. She is a gifted artist. She is wicked smart. Her heart belongs to Jesus in a way that is beyond her chronological age. Danielle loves babies and young children, so much so, that she is going on a mission trip to work in an orphanage this winter. I'm so very, very proud of her. Loving her is one of my favorite jobs here on planet Earth. It is beautiful.
I wanted to write about her because I know I give so much time and attention (and writing) to the other two. That's how it is in special-need homes and families. I know that it's not uncommon for parents to be wracked with guilt over the time and attention variant among their children with versus those without special needs. I'm certainly guilty of feeling guilty a lot of times. I'm quick to point out that there is a plan and purpose for all of us, but that guilt monster is a tough one to squelch. Again, sharing information about special needs issues is what makes our families stronger. Kids like Danielle make us stronger.
Mark and I try to make sure she knows she is loved and appreciated for being her, not just because she is an awesome helper. She gets some privileges that her brother and sister don't have because she has greater responsibilites than they do. We do some things like date-nights or date-days with just Danielle, and we encourage her to do some activities that are just for her. She also gets a smart phone, because she is in charge when Mark and I have dates alone. We encourage her to not be afraid to talk about the frustrations she faces with her brother and sister, and to not let those frustrations become the focus of her existence. I know some schools are starting support groups for kids who have a special needs sibling (or two), and I have a friend who tells me her daughter really enjoys the support group at her school. I know support groups are extremely beneficial to anyone who feels alone in a situation. I know because I've been a part of a few over the years. Sometimes, someone just needs to be told that therapy is OK. It is ok. It is all good. It is OK for your kids. It is OK for your family.
Feel free to share in the comments section some special ideas you might have that would help families who might be struggling with this kind of challenge. Share what makes your “typical” child special! How do other families gel together? Let's get some responses and discussion about togetherness and specialness. We are stronger together! Parent on!