Embracing My Daughter’s Special Needs Sweet Sixteen

Embracing her daughter's special needs sweet sixteen was hard for Kimberly Drew, but a new perspective enabled her to see how sweet the milestone was.

When her daughter Abbey turned sixteen, Kimberly Drew learned to look at the milestone birthday in a new way. She’s hear to explain what her new perspective revealed. 

Embracing My Daughter’s Special Needs Sweet Sixteen

We are in a new phase of life with Abbey. I can hardly believe she’s 16. She started high school last fall. I was already a junior at age 16 and head over heels in love. I remember youth group, movie nights, getting my driver’s license, and going to junior prom. A short year later I remember seeing my junior prom date with a new girlfriend who was wearing my dress. She looked better in it and with him than I did. Like most teenage girls, I pretended it didn’t bother me and then cried myself to sleep for weeks. I can laugh about it now, but teenage heartbreak is no joke! 

Abbey went to a prom this year, too.  Tim Tebow puts on a wonderful prom event for people with special needs called Night to Shine.  We shopped for a dress and did her hair, nails, and makeup. She had the time of her life. Guess who still cried herself to sleep? Yep, it was me. 

Never once did it occur to my teenage mind that I would one day be taking care of two disabled daughters. One by birth, one by choice, and neither by chance. I just didn’t write this into my story. It’s very, very difficult to make peace with at times.

This afternoon Abbey’s diaper leaked all over the floor. She walked through it and left urine footprints all over the kitchen. I had the biggest internal sigh, not upset with her. Just disappointed that I had to deal with it. My husband Ryan and I cleaned it and her up, and the day moved on. But when I’m trying to go to sleep, I get upset that these things still bother me even though I know I’m not the only parent who wrestles with letting go of what normal looks like. 

When I get weepy over the loss of that normal, I try very hard to reign in my thoughts. I know it’s okay to mourn the loss. I just can’t stay in that place. A little perspective always helps to pull me out. So instead of thinking about my sweet 16, I’m going to tell you about Abbey’s. 

  • She smiles….all the time. 
  • She NEVER cries herself to sleep.
  • She loves everyone, and they all love her back. 
  • Every night she makes me tuck in (and kiss) her doll, and then she goes to sleep in peace.
  • She does not feel the sting of an unkind word.
  • She does not want things she cannot have or feel jealous.
  • She will never embarrass herself with poor choices or social media.
  • She is the purest form of kindness.
  • Abbey has joy that doesn’t get tainted by life’s worries.

I would go on, but I’m already over my word count! Yes, my sweet 16 was pretty sweet, but I’m pretty sure that Abbey’s is the sweetest 16 of all. 

Kimberly grew up and went to college in the small town of Upland, IN. She graduated from Taylor University with a degree in Elementary Education in 2002. While at TU, she married her college sweetheart and so began their adventure! Ryan and Kimberly have three amazing kids on earth (Abigail, Jayden, and Cooper), and a baby boy waiting for them in heaven. Their daughter Abigail (Abbey) has multiple disabilities including cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, hearing loss, microcephaly, and oral dysphagia. She is the inspiration behind Kimberly’s  desire to write. In addition to being a stay at home mom, Kimberly has been serving alongside her husband in full time youth ministry for almost fourteen years. She enjoys working with the senior high girls, scrapbooking, reading, and music. You can visit Kimberly at her website, Promises and Perspective.

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  1. Marilyn Dowden Marilyn Dowden
    July 25, 2018    

    Aww Kimberly. This made me cry. Life is hard. I’m so thankful for your vulnerability as you write of your life. I have a 87 year old friend who says “normal is a setting on a dryer”. Abby is a gift. With much sorrow comes much joy and you, in your writing, exhibit joy. Thank you for sharing.
    I would love to see you when I come up mid July to welcome Hunter, grandson #2. ❤️

  2. Linda Abrams Linda Abrams
    July 25, 2018    

    I recently retired from teaching but I was blessed to see Abbey every day at school last year, and I can vouche for the fact that she never stops smiling. Seeing her would make my day! She is an amazing young woman who spreads sunshine wherever she goes.
    Happy sweet sixteen 🎂😘

  3. Margaret derin Margaret derin
    July 26, 2018    

    Thank you Kimberly for sharing Abbey with us. She is a joy to work with everyday! I love her humor and that she gets humor.She is kind,helpful,funny,sweet,hardworking,just a doll.We had a great first year with her and while I feel she learned a lot in return she taught us a lot.

  4. Julie Limmer Julie Limmer
    July 26, 2018    

    Oh, Kimberly. I’ve met Abbey many times, and everything you said about her is true–always smiling, always kind. Your wonderful, candid blog should be read by every mom (and Grandmas too), not just those with children with disabilities. Abbey is blessed to have you as her mom. Thanks for sharing what you’re learning. And HaPpY Sweet Sixteen to Abbey!

  5. Heather Roberts Heather Roberts
    July 26, 2018    

    Wow she is beautiful!

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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