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Monday, May 6, 2013

Guest Post {Jessica}

I have a three-year-old daughter who is congenital quadruple amputee. Most simply put that means she has limb differences of all four of her limbs. She has no left arm, a very short right arm and short legs. She and my son are less than a year apart in age. 

Before my daughter’s adoption, over and over again we came back to the question, how will having a differently abled child impact our energetic happy-go-lucky son? The answer, we’ve learned, is in all the best ways. 

Those first few months home had moments, multiple moments that were rough, really rough. But that had very little to do with the special need and everything to do with adding another person into the mix. Another person who inexplicably needed time, attention and love. 

These days the two are friends. The kinds of friends who clamor together at inopportune times for ice cream, who squabble over toys and who share joy in conspiring against their parents. It’s brutal and beautiful.

Everyone knows that the way to teach kindness and compassion is to live it. Having a special needs child, like many other life experiences, fast tracks that learning.
We were recently somewhere with an adaptive climbing wall. We all paused to watch a woman who was paralyzed from the waist down use her upper body strength to climb the wall. When she finally reached the top, she ran the belled and we all cheered. My four year old cheered like only a four year old can -- loud and long. I know that moment has stayed with him because he’s asked me about it several times since.

Because my daughter is getting a power wheelchair, when we are out and about power chairs and car lifts always catch our eye. My son recently came running up yelling, “Mom, mom, look that man is driving a power chair.” The man in the chair grinned and give a little wave.

While my son is certainly getting a more expanded view of the world around him, his horizons aren’t the only ones being broadened. Having a very active brother pushes our daughter. If he can do it, well, she can too. I’ve also noticed that when she does need help, she frequently turns to her big brother before asking my husband or me. Not only does he help her, but he’s intuitive in his help. Before we got steps leading to and from the couch, my daughter frequently was frustrated that her feet dangled far above the floor preventing her from getting off unassisted. While my husband and I were scratching our heads trying to figure out how to solve the problem, my son pulled an oversized decorative pillow from the other room and shoved it under her, allowing her to climb off. 

All of this is not to say that there aren’t some tricky moments. What do you do at the amusement park when one child won’t ever meet the height requirements for some rides? How do you choose which rides you will go on and in what order? Do you split up? Alternate?

We try to follow the advice from Siblings Without Rivalry. In their book, authors Fabers and Mazlish emphasize loving uniquely, not equally. This is good advice (even if hard to implement) for any sibling relationship, but it’s especially meaningful when there are siblings of varying degrees of ability.  Each child needs their own autonomy and the knowledge that they aren’t expected to be each other’s parent or a caretaker. Being brother and sister some days is more than enough.

While it can be difficult to make sure each child gets his or her due, it’s also easy to worry unnecessarily that the scales of life tilt too heavily to the special needs side.The other day my son drew a picture of all of us. In the picture his sister had no arms. I was about to go all Freud on the whole thing and wondered if that’s how he saw her. Then I noticed he drew me with no arms too.

I know my children’s interactions with each other, like their relationship with me and their father, will influence all of their future relationships. It will shape the friends they choose, the spouses they will marry and some day the kind of parents they will be. 

From each other, they are learning there is no greater love than that a man lay down his life for a friend.
Jessica blogs over at limb different.  Head on over to hear more about this wonderful family and Jessica's thoughts. 


  1. What a beautiful post. It's obvious that she was meant to be in your family. You are ALL blessed!

  2. Absolutely beautiful. There is nothing better than watching siblings in tender moments.

  3. Good morning Jessica - oh you hit one right out of the ball park here - ..."I was getting ready to go all Freud on the whole thing...." such a temptation for any adoptive parent, sn's or not, 'is my child acting this way because....'.

    In reality maybe we just need to remember that they are acting this way because at this very moment in time - it's the way they feel they need to act! No hidden agenda - no trauma motive - just how they feel right now!

    Good to have met you - LOVE seeing your kids together - and absolutely LOVE that you have your head on straight! Yeah - parenting like this "fast tracks" our learning!

    hugs - aus and co.

  4. The sibling bond is so evident in this post. What a beautiful, beautiful post!


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