Wise Beyond His Years

Good morning, friends!

As we all frantically race around trying to finalize all the last-minute details before the kids are off school and Christmas break officially begins, I wanted to again pause and share something. Lots of "sharing" going on lately, I know. Must be this time of year. :) This doesn't necessarily have anything to do directly with Red Letter Ink, but it's something that's been on my heart lately – both in my own personal life and from my interactions with the families we've met through our local Special Olympics team. And for the record, this isn't meant to sound like, "Oh poor Aimee" – it's just our reality.

Some of you know that my husband and I have a 9-year-old daughter with special needs – our first born. While she's made so much progress over the past several years, she still has a long road ahead of her. There's no "fixing" her neurological processing/planning disorder, so despite the hundreds of hours of therapy she's received, she'll most likely never be neck and neck with her peers academically or socially – unless God chooses to intervene. As parents, that's been a tough pill to swallow. Really tough. But we have seen the incredible work God has done in and through Peyton, and we know He has great plans for her!

This morning as my husband's alarm went off at 6:00am and as I groggily rolled over, I found a {sneaky} warm little snuggle bug there whispering, "Hi mama!". Then he quickly jumped up and ran off. I figured he ran off to go play Transformers or something and didn't think much of it. About 10 minutes later as I was up and getting around, he slipped back into our room with a big smile on his face. He walked in first with the door barely cracked open, then he proudly swung the door open to reveal Peyton standing there fully-dressed as he declared with his arms spread proudly above his head, "SURPRISE! I got her ready for you! I got her socks on, helped her get dressed, and I even brought her hair stuff in so you can help her....cuz I couldn't do that part good. AND I helped her go potty. SURPRISE!!!". I'm not gonna lie - I teared up. Might have to do with the 5.5 hours of sleep I got, but it could very well have been simply because the crazy big heart this little man has blows me away. Every. Single. Day.

I'm sure some of you are thinking, "Umm, okay. Sooo...what's the big deal?". Let me put this into perspective for you. How many of you have a child between the ages of 7-10? Great, many of you. How many of you have to do pretty much everything for them when it comes to getting ready in the morning? I'm talkin' putting on shirts, pants, and doing buttons and zippers because the motor planning involved with that is so challenging, and putting on socks, and tying shoes because we're still not there and Peyton's feet are so big now that it's difficult to find slip-on shoes that fit, and brushing/doing hair, and helping with toileting/personal care, and brushing teeth so we can try to avoid more traumatic dental procedures...I'm sure I'm missing some steps, but I think you get it. And in the midst of our daily routine, we try to leave enough time to make sure as we're helping with these tasks, we're able to not just DO the tasks for Peyton, but we are showing her HOW to do them and then we try our best to allow enough time for her to practice each of these skills. And believe me, they are skills...very hard-earned skills. Most parents take the fact that their kids start dressing themselves at about age 3 for granted. Or that their kids are able to independently start doing a LOT of things by about age 3-4...maybe not successfully all the time, but they intuitively and instinctively begin to figure it out.

There are millions of families around the world who have been blessed with a special needs child. And yes, I said blessed because despite all the challenges, these kids teach you so much more about yourself and life in general than we ever could've hoped to learn without them. They're amazing. AMAZING. But in all of the efforts to assist the child who needs the extra assistance, we often times inadvertently overlook the other kids – the siblings. I can't tell you the countless hours Carson has spent in the confining, mind-numbing space called the "waiting room" as Peyton has received therapy services...or the number of times we've had to abort an attempt at an outing because it was too much for Peyton...or the number of times he's been dragged along to a specialist appointment...or the number of times we've had to cancel something he was looking forward to because Peyton needed our attention more...or the number of times he's come home from school crying because someone was mean to his sister. Actually, when I sit and really think about it, it makes my heart ache. He didn't choose to be born into a family with a special needs child. He didn't choose to have to be the "older" sibling looking out for his big sister. But as I watch him interact with Peyton, I am so encouraged to see the sweet young man God is creating him to be. Don't get me wrong, he still has his moments where we have to pull him aside and remind him of our situation when he's frustrated that Peyton has asked the same question 5 times or that she's wanting to watch Elmo again {Caron's arch enemy...so "not cool"} or is pretending that she has a friend over for a playdate. He fights with his sister like every brother does. But when I see him so in-tune with Peyton's needs, helping her like he did this morning, I turn into a big weepy mess as I'm reminded that he's just a 7-year-old baby. His sweet, caring spirit with her is wise beyond his years.

During this crazy time of year, I've been trying to slow down and be more intentional with acknowledging the little things Carson does to encourage and help Peyton each day. I couldn't stop smiling the other day as Carson pulled me into his room and secretly showed me the Christmas presents he'd bought Peyton when him and daddy went on a "man date" last weekend. As annoyed as Carson gets by Peyton's obsession with Hot Wheels cars, he was giddy showing me the two special cars he'd picked out for Peyton. And he was SO excited when we figured out a way to wrap them up so she can't tell what they are simply by looking at them. When I hear the two of them talking and Carson gently correct Peyton's speech sounds, I try to make sure and quietly give Carson a nod and a smile or a quick hug, telling him we'll talk more about it later. Or when he invites Peyton to play Wii with him even though that means he'll have to play a game he doesn't necessarily enjoy and he won't be able to bring his "A-game", I try to make sure to let him know what a nice gesture that was. Or when he sits down with Peyton and helps her read, I try to make sure and let daddy know at dinner time what a big help Carson was. Or when we're looking through homework folders and Carson sees Peyton's sloppily written spelling words and he tells her, "Wow, great job Peyton - your letters are looking so nice!", I try to give him a squeeze. There are so many "little" instances that we often overlook because of the busyness in our day – but my prayer lately has been that I'll be reminded to stop whatever I'm doing and praise Carson for loving Peyton like Jesus loves us. Unconditionally and with no strings attached. He sees us struggle in this life, doing things awkwardly and barely functioning at times – making mistakes along the way, yet He still continues to love us. He comes along side us when we are at our lowest. He picks us up. He dusts us off. He walks with us. He isn't ashamed to be seen with us in all of our flawed awkwardness. Instead, He meets us where we're at. He sees something beautiful in us. And He loves us. Period.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  
- John 13:34-35

As we look ahead to another new year I'd like to leave you with this challenge. If you know of a family who has a special needs child, the next time you see them, take a minute and give some attention and props to the siblings. The road they're walking is also a long and often lonely one. I've been amazed at some of the great "special" siblings I've met through our local Special Olympics team - there are so many wonderfully patient and loving siblings around us who are wise beyond their years, and quite frankly, could use some encouragement themselves as they continue living their lives daily on "high alert" watching out for their special needs sibling(s). I know we can all learn something from them – myself included. They give selflessly and tirelessly. And they love BIG. Let's love BIG in 2014!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

P.S. To my sweet little buddy, I love you and am so thankful for all that you bring to our family – you're one-of-a-kind and Peyton is blessed to have you as a brother! Thank you for showing me how to love BIG, even when it's not easy.



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