My in-laws gave us a devotional book for Christmas by James Dobson. It has some real gems in it. One really hit home for me, so I am going to share it here.
“My family and I took a ski vacation in California some years ago when our children were still young. It was a memorable time but one that had its frustrating moments. Coping with two kids who are complaining about the cold and losing gloves and scarves can get on a father’s nerves.
After getting them located at the lodge, I parked the car and waited for a flatbed truck to take me back to the top of the mountain. About fifteen young skiers waited with me. Then I noticed a girl in her early twenties standing with the others. When she turned to look at me, I recognized the unmistakable appearance of mental retardation in her eyes. She was behaving strangely and repeating the word “whomever” without meaning. The other young skiers smiled and rolled their eyes.
Then I noticed that the big man standing near her was her father. He had obviously seen the reactions of the other skiers. Then he did something that moved me. He put his arms around the girl, looked down lovingly at his daughter, and said, “Yeah, babe. Whomever.”
This father had obviously seen the scorn in the faces of the other skiers. The compassion in his voice and his manner seemed to be saying, “Yes, it’s true. She is retarded. We can’t hide that fact. She is very limited in ability. She won’t sing the songs. She won’t write the books. In fact, she’s already out of school. We’ve done the best we could for her. But I want you all to know something. This is my girl, and I love her. And I’m not ashamed to be identified with her. ‘Yeah, babe. Whomever!”
The tenderness of that father flooded out from his soul and engulfed mine. I quietly apologized to the Lord for complaining about my irritations and looked forward to hugging my children at the top of the mountain.
This story really touched me. It made me think of our soon to be daughter and also our son Joshua. Both have special needs and I find myself feeling like I should apologize for their actions in public sometimes. When Joshua throws one of his fits I struggle not to feel embarrassed by it and feel like people are judging my parenting skills. Lately, though, I have decided that I just don’t care what people think. I love my son and my daughter and no matter their actions I will still love them and not apologize for them. I cannot change who they are and their special needs, and I need those around me to accept them as they are. For better or worse, our family is a package deal and they are apart of that package. We don’t have a cookie cutter family, we have five kids, two of whom are from other races and who have special needs. One throws tantrums and is almost three and still barely talks, and our daughter, whom we haven’t met yet, has very limited abilities just like this young girl in the story. But I don’t care. We are still a family just like any other one. We are people who live together and love one another. We are not all easy to love, what family is? We are not all easy to look at and are awkward to be around sometimes, I understand that, but I have decided that cannot apologize for my children who don’t quite fit into that “perfect” family ideal. There are no perfect families anyway. The way this man stood up for his daughter humbles me, it took great courage. You cannot know what that is like until you live it. I hope that I can be that for my children, those that are “normal” and easy to love, and those that are “not normal” and sometimes hard to love. Each is a person and deserves love and respect.