I’ve written several posts now about how having a son with special needs has affected my husband and I- especially me as a mom. But there is a part of this family, of every special needs family, that often gets forgotten about- the grandparents. Not only the grandparents, but the aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and other extended family as well.
All of the things I’ve written about- the broken expectations, the struggles with everyday activities, the heartbreak over seeing typical kids, the constant waiting for milestones- all of it is felt by the rest of the family, too. They don’t get exempt from the ‘special needs struggle’ just because they didn’t birth the child. In fact, they have their own feelings of disappointment to deal with on top of ours and they have to do it without the baby smiles and little achievements that we as parents see throughout each day. They don’t have the advantage of experiencing the small wins in therapy or getting all of their questions answered by the doctors. They just have to wait to hear from us and try not to step on our toes as they offer any help they can think of. I am more guilty than any of forgetting that this is their battle, too. I apologize to all of my family for that!
Learning how to handle a child with special needs is so hard. Their abilities are so different and they don’t react the way typical children do. But I get to try and fail everyday to figure Jonah out. His grandparents only get a few hours at a time once or twice a month. They have to rely on whatever we say instead of their own past experiences or instincts as they try to buy him gifts, play with him, and feed him. The tricks they learned to soothe their children (us) and they ways they like to play may actually make matters worse for a child with special needs. Each visit can be just another heartbreak as they are reminded that he’s not able to participate like they have been dreaming of.
Just think of all your favorite memories with your grandparents. Grandparents dream of taking their grandkids fishing, baking cookies with them, taking them to the park, introducing them to dinosaurs at the museum, watching them fall asleep in their arms, laughing with them as they try to interpret the baby babble. Each and every one of those dreams of grandparenthood have been broken by the disabilities associated with Jonah’s diagnosis. They just keep waiting. And they just keep trying to help us in any way that they can.
We are so thankful that our son (and all of our kids) have been blessed with awesome grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Our family is amazing and they constantly step up for us every time we need it. They help us buy Jonah’s special food instead of that new toy they saw in the store. They let him jump in their lap and lovingly hand him off for us to feed. They offer to watch him for us and are patient when we say no. But they would much rather gift him with colorful toys and new clothes. They would love to feed him and babysit every weekend. They want to do normal grandparent things and I so wish they could! But even though he’s a year past the age listed on that cool toy, he can’t play with it yet. He doesn’t need new clothes because he hasn’t grown much in six months. He won’t eat for anyone but my husband or I and we can’t leave him for too long because of that. Those things are hard to accept and I am SO thankful that our family is understanding. Over and over again they set aside what they want for what Jonah needs and that is harder than you think. Grandkids are supposed to be easy.
So here’s to those forgotten: THANK YOU! Thank you for hanging in there with us. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for listening. Thank you for caring. Thank you for continuing to try. Thank you for bragging about him. Thank you for waiting with us. Thank you for loving Jonah just the way he is.
“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3 NLT
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NLT
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12 NLT