A special post from Director Stephanie Carpenter, mom of 7 -soon-to-be- 9 daughters with special needs.
It’s summertime! For many families, this is a time of fun… and wonder at what you are going to do to entertain all your kids who are now out of school for three months! For the parents of special-needs children, this may prompt even more worries or wondering about how to balance the needs of your able-bodied and special-needs children on the family summer vacation. As the parents of six moderately to severely disabled daughters (excepting our eldest), none of whom walk independently, Brian and I are often met with questions abut how we make vacation “work” for our family.
In the adoption and special-needs community, I am often approached by families who wonder how they will make their vacation an enjoyable experience for all their kids. For parents of special-needs children, there are often other things to be taken into consideration.
How will I get my non-mobile child onto the beach?
How many wheelchairs do we need?
What about other adaptive equipment?
While these are legitimate questions and I am not suggesting you do not bring the appropriate equipment for your child’s needs, our family would like to share how Cerebral Palsy (and other disabilities) does not have to hinder your summer vacation. Instead, we find it Completely Possible!
The beach…What a precious gift to watch our girls enjoy the ocean and the smells of the salt air and the sand between your toes (and the sand everywhere)! We want them all to be able to experience the fun at the level they are able. If they can swim in the ocean, or if they can only lay and feel the sun on their faces and breath the ocean air. We make it a point to bring all of our daughters to our beach vacation to experience this gift!
To make this experience possible, we have found that we can’t concern ourselves with “doing it by the book.”
Ellianna can’t walk and uses a wheelchair? Don’t worry about a cumbersome beach chair to wheel her out to the sand. We’ll carry her! If we can’t carry all of them, we’ll simply take a stroller gently through the sand.
Rachele, with her extensive brain injury, can’t play in the water? That’s okay! She can sit in the warm sun as we talk to her and give her snacks. One of us can watch Olyvia while the big girls play down by the shore!
Rather than focusing on what our girl’s can’t do, our family does what they are able.
This means a lot of personal sacrifice. It takes time, effort, energy and more to bring six special-needs girls to the beach and boardwalk. It means late nights, getting everyone ready for bed. Certainly, there’s less R & R for us as parents than one would hope for.
But is our life on this earth really supposed to be about our rest and relaxation? Our comfort? Or is it about something far greater? As Matthew 25:40 says:
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Likewise, when Jesus tells us to bring the little children unto Him, he does not add on with hesitation: only when it is convenient. Or, only when you feel like it.
When we see our little Avi, with her scoliosis and spastic quadriplegia, breathing in the ocean air with a smile on her face and giggling with joy, we see an image of Jesus Himself. As she looks off into the distance over the ocean, with her curls blowing in the wind, we wonder…if perhaps it is Avi who is closest to the heart of God and if her eyes see things Beyond this earth that we cannot.
Brian and I hope to encourage you to think about a different approach to summer vacation with special-needs. Ting Ministries also works to provide counseling and respite for adoptive/post-adoptive families. If you have a need, we’d love to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.