Our oldest son, Christian, has many special needs. I rarely refer to him as such because he is our son. All children have “special needs,” right? Some need more attention, some need help with schoolwork, some need special medical treatments, etc. But, in today’s definition of “special needs,” our son is such. His diagnosis includes cerebral palsy and autism, to name a few, and his challenges are numerous.
What makes him special to me is that God didn’t just give me him, God brought Christian to me and me to Christian – he is my stepson and I came into his life when he was 3. But we never refer to him as my stepson – he is OUR child. Our son. He is a big brother. One of our 4 children. There is no differentiation in our house.
I recently read the book The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs by Andrew and Rachel Wilson. It is a true confessional of the challenges of raising children with special needs. The Wilsons know about that – they have 2 children with special needs. The foreword of the book is written by Russell D. Moore. The foreword was listening to my personal story – things that have been said to me – as I read his story of a family at his church with special needs.
The book itself is raw and candid and a wonderful account of life with special needs children from the authors point of view. They don’t “sugar-coat” anything, which is admirable. The child that are referred to throughout have autism, but it doesn’t matter what special needs your children have, this book is relatable. The authors are very honest about life and how it is a life they “never expected” but were given, by God.
They are honest, up front that their children are young and they know they have much to learn. That there are probably many people out there raising special needs children with a lot more experience and insight but they wanted to write it while it was new. They felt moved to do it now – to maybe help someone else who is struggling to make it work.
There were part of the book that I felt were taken right out of my life – our life with our son. And parts that I didn’t feel were relatable. But what book wouldn’t be that way. I definitely liked the scriptural references, as they are good to be reminded of, especially when things are hard. And there are DEFINITELY hard days with all children.
Some of the references throughout the book were interesting analogies and sometimes quite comical. Someone without special needs children might not laugh because, let’s face it, those without special needs children tend to be worried that laughing at something is being rude somehow. But THEY ARE CHILDREN and children do funny things. So, when my son zooms like a plane when he hears a plane before everyone else, we look for the plane and get excited with him. When he gets excited and laughs in a funny way we laugh with him. For some, their children may jump up and down or flap their arms or hum if they are excited. I liked the way that the authors put this.
“After a while, your children’s habits… simply become part of the music of your lives.” /p93
And our life is musical – DEFINITELY!
Overall, I think it was a nice book that openly shares this families adapting to their “new ordinary” as they call it. As their lives have changed with their children. But whose life doesn’t change with children? I used to have glass coffee tables, marble coasters, a clean house that was clutter free, and windows free or nose and finger prints – remember those days?
Then I had children. We have extra cushioned couches so when our son throws his head back in anger, it is cushioned for him until he has finished his tantrum. We have breathing treatment machines in our bathroom closets and special places for g-tubes for feeding. We have a stash of medical supplies in case they are needed for his button and used to have extra trachea buttons and supplies for that (he was fortunate to have that removed when he was 8 – that was great!). We also have toys and plastic dishes and paints and playdoh and…and…and… because we are parents. I wouldn’t change our “new ordinary” for anything.
If you have children with special needs, you might find this book a good one to read. You might relate to it. You might not. But the authors shared their story in hopes it can be helpful to someone else. In their Eplilogue the authors state that even in the course of writing the book, prediction and issues have changed. I think that is important to note. The life of any child, especially one with autism, can change quickly and be on a course that was not predicted. But, as the authors so eloquently state that though no one can predict how life will turn out, we know that with God as the guide for our lives, our lives, and the lives or our children, will include “grace, blessing, and goodness of God” which is vital to us living this life “we never expected” and that we wouldn’t trade for anything.
You can get your own copy of The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special Needs by clicking on these links. And be sure to enter the giveaway to win a copy of The Life We Never Expected.
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