Recently, my boys had the opportunity to mingle with four young men of long-term acquaintance. At least once a year, our families get together for a Christmas celebration, and each year is an opportunity to assess the progress my children have made since our last Christmas gathering. I was quite content with my children’s progress: from Ben’s abundance of words to Alex finding comfort in crayons and finding a positive outlet for his energy; from Willy’s minimal meltdowns to Brandon’s lessened antagonism of Willy. They’ve all come a long way in the past year.
This year, however, another thing struck me. Suddenly, I saw something taken for granted that really shouldn’t be. These four young men—ranging from two adults (one who has and one who will soon reach their majority) to two children near Willy’s age—are extraordinary in and of themselves. Each of these boys has faced or continues to face exceptional medical conditions. Some past and some present; some acute and some chronic. Each of these medical challenges is enough to cause distress and upheaval. Each of these medical challenges has been known to break families in a variety of ways. Yet, while the families involved face the challenges and stress one might expect, none of them have even come close to breaking over them. There’s no lamenting over not having a normal child. There’s no wishing for a child to be something or someone he cannot be.
Each of these families has taken the child they have, embraced that child, and embraced the challenges of raising that child, continuing to nurture that child into adulthood.
Considering the families in question this doesn’t surprise me. Yet, when I read what I do and when I hear what I’ve heard and when I see what I’ve seen, I have to stop for a moment in awe. It seems so very many parents reject their child, because the child is not the person the parents’ expected or wanted. From the simple things, like the dad who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, or the mother who wanted her daughter to go to college instead of playing in a band. To the much more challenging things, like the musician whose son is born without the ability to hear or the mother who will sacrifice anything and everything, including her child’s well-being, to fight autism and find a cure. I’m faced with so many of these stories that sometimes it’s hard to remember that so many families face their challenges quietly, but with extreme love and patience. While far too many families reject their child as unwanted or unexpected, there are so many families who go unsung who take the child they have and make their futures bright and true. It’s important to take the time to celebrate these families who live their exceptional lives and make it good.