One of my biggest struggles as the dad of a son with profound special needs is jealousy. After 15 years you would think I would be capable of rising above it, but it still strikes from time to time. This time of year is especially hard. Our son’s disabilities preclude us from taking any kind of vacation or time off to relax and renew. He simply can’t travel and the need for constant care just makes it too difficult to attempt.
With our school year coming to a close, I get envious of other’s vacation plans. Hearing of upcoming beach trips and such are difficult for us, if we are being transparent.
Then there is the whole end of the school year process. There are talent shows, award ceremonies, graduations and graduation parties and proms,
These can be another reminder of awards my son will never win, talents he will never have, and so many other typical experiences that his walk in life will not include.
Jon Alex has been in a CDC special education class his entire school life. But now his body is 15 years old so next year he will have to transition to a new school and a new environment. He has been in the same exact room for years with the same teacher.
His, and his momma’s, whole world will turn upside this summer when he moves to high school.
His middle school had a ceremony this week for the 8th grade student body graduating middle school and moving on to high school.
In all honesty, we didn’t want to attend the ceremony. They would just be wheeling Jon Alex through the alphabetical line to give him a certificate of achievement, but cognitively it wouldn’t mean anything to him. So we had some hesitation about even attending.
I was afraid that in front of the entire student body, someone might shout something hurtful or derogatory when his name was announced. My biggest fear was that someone in the crowd would mock him or embarrass him.
You hear and read so much about bullying in schools, you see the stories, and as a dad of a special needs child, deep down you fear your child may be a target.
So we went to the ceremony and attended the program. The teachers and staff went through a long list of superlatives and award winners.
My son attends Algood Middle School and the school nickname and mascot is “Redskins.”
At the end of the awards presentation, my son’s teacher came to the podium and she began to describe the winner of this year’s Redskin Award.
She described a young man who everyone knows and loves, who is the kindest and happiest boy in the school. All of a sudden I saw my son’s aide begin to wheel him up to the podium…and I knew.
Here's a link to the video.
I knew…and I cried. I cried because the entire student body, parents, and faculty stood up to give my son a standing ovation. I wept with pride and joy and actually dropped the camera.
In that one moment, my son won the Super Bowl, the Masters, and was the World Series MVP. In that one moment my son was elected president of the United States, won the Nobel Prize, and walked on Mars.
And then I had to repent. Not for my pride did I repent.
I repented because, as a parent of a child with special needs, I had grown weary and jaded. I had assumed and imagined the worst might happen. I had misjudged my son’s peers and others. I had braced myself for another disappointment and disillusionment.
I had never imagined or dared to dream of this.
What a reminder that goodness does still exist in this world. A reminder that grace and dignity is still offered in this world. A reminder that the next generation, despite what you hear, does care and value virtues. A reminder that acceptance and inclusion are not just terms in a book, but a real life code capable of being followed.
Every life God creates has significance. I had confused accomplishment with significance. I had confused accomplishment with influence.
Here was my son’s God-given plan and purpose on display before me. His life has significance and his life has influence.
He is the gift and I am the gift keeper.