To the mother of our child with special needs…with these words, guest blogger Mark Arnold begins the best kind of love letter to his wife. Grab a tissue and read on!
To the mother of our special needs child, my wife…
It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that our child is autistic. It’s not your fault that he has learning difficulties. It’s not your fault that James has epilepsy. None of these things are your fault, or mine; they are no one’s fault. James is who he was born to be, who he was meant to be, with all of the challenges that brings–along with all of the joys that we experience with him. James has a mix of our genes, and those have formed him into who he is. To be blamed for any differences this blend has created is as absurd as finding fault in parents whose child has red hair, or is shorter, or can’t sing in tune, or is left handed.
James’ additional needs are not your fault, but they are what make you shine! We didn’t expect that our child would have additional needs, but the way you fight for him, care for him, and love him unconditionally does you great credit.
You fight for him. When things aren’t happening quickly enough to give James the support that he needs, you are filled with a strong will to champion his corner, to call out poor performance in professionals, to challenge why things are taking so long. You are better than me at asking the hard questions, putting people on the spot and forcing them to act, bringing about positive change for James and our family.
You care for him. James needs a lot of care, care that is much less for a typical 16-year-old. Whether it’s the whole range of personal care that needs doing, or just sitting with James when he’s had an epileptic seizure to make sure that he is safe and recovering, or just keeping him company when he wants it, you are there for him.
You love him unconditionally. Even when you are again clearing up what you would not expect to have to for a 16-year-old. Even when James refuses to cooperate, doing the exact opposite of what you have calmly asked him to do. Even when those rarest of rare things–a break from being carer to enjoy a treat, or a much-needed holiday–gets cancelled at the last minute because James cannot cope or is unwell. You love him because of who he is, not in spite of who he is.
You juggle like a circus performer. Caring for James, keeping the household going, managing to hold down your job, volunteering at church in the children’s team, being wife to me, Mum to Phoebe and James, daughter, sister, friend, and more. It’s amazing how you manage to keep everything going without dropping the ball, I’m very grateful for all that you do and very proud of you!
So, when things are tough, when it’s hard to see the future clearly, when that future looks difficult and there seems no end to the demands on you, please remember this. I’m fighting for our family alongside you, I care for you as much as you care for James, I love you unconditionally too, and when you are juggling and feel like you’re going to drop a ball, you can toss it to me and I’ll catch it. We’re in this together, for life and all that it can throw at us. There is no-one I would rather be facing life with than you.
Your loving husband and friend,
Mark Arnold is the Additional Needs Ministry Director at Urban Saints, a leading national Christian children’s and youth organization. He is co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, a national and international advocate for children and young people with additional (special) needs or disabilities and is passionate about enabling everyone engaging with them to be inspired, trained and well-resourced. Mark is a Churches for All and Living Fully Network partner, a member of the Council for Disabled Children and the European Disability Networ. He writes an additional needs column for Premier Youth and Children’s Work (YCW) magazine and blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather, He is father to James, who has autism spectrum condition, associated learning disability, and epilepsy. To find out more about how Mark’s work can help you, contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or @Mark_J_Arnold.
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