I vividly remember the time my young twin sons sat me down on the couch to tell me I was, in a sense, failing them. In gentler rewording, that my popularity polls were dropping–& fast.
That was a tough bit of news for my mama’s heart that cares deeply for my kids. But the reality of their feelings was–three of my four kiddos felt overlooked, passed over & pushed aside. An arrow struck my heart. I wanted to defend myself–to let them know that I was preoccupied because their little sister was crestfallen & so many specialists still didn’t have answers, let alone treatments & solutions. But as I sat there & listened, I realized the courage it took for them to come toward me & raise their little hands for help. I needed to find some sort of support for kids of siblings with special medical needs.
As a conscientious mom, I thought I could keep everyone happy in our home as we navigated the tricky currents of life altering medical issues.
But ‘happy’ is a slippery beast.
I remember a good friend, further down the path of parenting, stating–at a time when my oldest was rather frustrated with the arrival of not one new baby in the home but, two–that parenting wasn’t about making our children happy but, about cooperating with the character building God was doing in their lives.
All I knew was lots of character building was happening in our home & hearts! That friend’s words struck a chord with me & gave me relief & focus.
And so now I want to offer a few words for those of you balancing the typical sibling rivalry with the imbalance of caring for a child with critical medical needs or special needs:
- Realize that you are not alone & sibling issues are a typical occurrence in each & every family with more than one kiddo. True, there are complicated dynamics when one sibling has complex medical needs but, there are helps available on my resource page here & some books here for just that. Other diagnosis specific resources like sibling camps or support groups can be found through your kiddo’s medical staff or case workers.
- Reach out to those who already have a relationship with your kids established. Grandparents, neighbors, church staff & athletic coaches can be great sources of support when you are stretched thin or unavailable. Communicate with those support people who can come along side your other children when there are hospitalizations, surgical procedures or other issues that may demand your time & attention.
- Remind yourself, & your kids, of the truth, “Fair is not always equal”. I repeated this often to my elementary students & say it now to my own kids. There is a strong sense of justice in children that needs shaping. Often in kids’ eyes–fair means equal, or the same. But, in life, fair is rarely equal & life is sometimes unfair. These truths are important to grapple with, as much as possible, by both the kiddo in your family battling a body that is complex & different, as well as those siblings who feel the difference in mom-time, treatment & attention.
- Talk directly as a family about the needs of each person. You may have to renegotiate time, schedules & family activities to help support one other.
Let grace flow in your heart & home. It’s tough to feel our limits on a regular basis but, sometimes surrendering to ‘good enough’ helps us lay down the ‘burden of better’.
Most of us are grand at giving grace to most everyone but ourselves & I’m here to remind you that grace & allowance of ‘enough’, whatever that may be on one particular day, is here for the taking–& that includes you too.