As mother of four "typical children" before I became mother to "special needs", I know what it means to take things for granted. By "typical children," I mean children to whom learning comes at a pace similar to that of most of the children around them. By "special needs" I mean......well.....children who do not learn at that same pace. As parents, we expect that our children will reach each new milestone, rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, talking. It seldom occurs to us that they won't.
Until they don't.
When we first took Moise into our home, thinking, at that time, that it was only temporary, we knew he had a serious congenital heart defect. We didn't know the rest of his story. We didn't know that a vicious virus was wreaking havoc with his body, or that he had significant brain damage, or that he had cerebral palsy, or that he was deaf. But after we finally came through all of the surgeries and countless other crises he faced in the hospital, after we had him in our home for awhile, something began to nag at me. He was nine months old and never moved his legs. I had never seen a baby that didn't kick it's legs all around. He couldn't lift his own head. He never made eye contact or turned to the sound of children's voices. All those typical things that happened, almost without my notice, weren't happening with Moise. Suddenly we noticed those things, or lack thereof. As he grew, the list of things that he didn't do on time, or that he will never do, got longer and longer.
With Jalayne we knew before we ever laid eyes on her that she had Down Syndrome and that new things would come more slowly for her. But her progress was steady and we hardly noticed her delays. Her bigger than life personality made it difficult to feel like she lagged behind other children her age. Whatever she lacked in development, she made up for in joy and happiness. She walked at twenty one months and I had little doubt that she would talk one day soon. But she didn't.
Kruz came into our lives with a genetic disorder so rare that no one could even take a guess at what we might expect for his future. Everything comes slow for Kruz and there seem to be some developmental stepping stones that he completely skips over. We don't dwell on the things he doesn't do, but when we go out, when he's around other children, his delays are glaringly obvious.
People frequently ask "do you think he will ever walk? Will he be able to talk?" My heart wants to say "of course he will." It was never a question with our first four children. We never, not once, considered that they might not walk or talk. When we were together with other parents, we didn't think to ask of their children "will she walk?" but rather "is she walking?"
We never thought about the little things our children naturally did. Things like grasping a rattle at just a few months old, putting objects in their mouth, banging blocks together, clapping their hands in delight, taking off their socks, turning the pages of a book. These things are so simple, so normal, so expected that we hardly notice that our children are doing them. Until they don't.
Now I know. After the agonizing journey of watching my children work so hard to do the simplest of things, I am keenly aware that sometimes they don't. I know that sometimes they never talk. Some children never walk.
All of the things that our children learn to do as they grow are gifts. They are priceless, immeasurable gifts to be cherished. But we don't know it. Until they don't.
God is good, all the time.