Ok, let me tackle the first question head on. What business does a guy with no kids have saying anything about parenting? Not much, but I had the benefit of two very wise and wonderful parents of my own. I would like to share a few things I learned from them in hopes that it will help some of you down the road.
I’m not aware of anyone in my current circle of friends who is raising a child with “special needs,” but I know lots of people with imperfect kids. That would be all of you, since presumably your children are human. I don’t see so well. My parents could have focused on what I can’t do. I’ve seen it in people I know. I could have been brought up helpless, and that’s what I would have been. I know full grown adults who function as if they were mentally handicapped for no other reason than that they were raised as if they were. My parents didn’t’ treat me that way. They never put my blindness in front of me as an obstacle. Whatever I wanted to try, they let me try it, despite the apprehension it must have caused them. I’m not saying they were irresponsible, but they recognized the importance of allowing me to find my own limits. I know they watched from afar more often than I was aware of it. My first bicycle must have been hard enough. I don’t know how Dad managed to help me buy the Moped.
Because of this, I did not learn to say “I can’t.” When situations presented themselves that would normally call for good eyes, my response was, “I can do it another way.” That got harder later in life as the problems became more complex, but it’s still the way I think. Don’t focus on what can’t be done. Focus on what can. I hope that you don’t have to face raising a handicapped child, but don’t handicap him further by presuming to know his limits.
I’m not sure of the best way to share the rest of this story. For a number of reasons, I don’t like to talk about this part of my life much. I want to share it because I want to honor my parents and to hold them up as an example to others. I’ll tell the story because I know of no better way to illustrate the point. Forgive me if I still remain a little vague. I don’t want to say things that don’t need to be said.
A few of you know that I was married before. My web site bio goes into that a little more deeply, but since that’s not pivotal to this account I’ll leave you to read it if you want to. The point I want to make here is that Mom and Dad saw the disaster coming before it arrived. There were some rather obvious signs, but I could not see them. There’s more than one way to be blind. Believing I had to, I left my summer missions trip and flew home to get married. I asked my dad to do the ceremony. He was against the marriage, but I never knew it. I can certainly understand the argument that he shouldn’t’ have done it. After all, should we assist someone in something we believe is wrong or will hurt them? First of all, he could only suspect. Only God knew for certain. Second, there is no way I would have listened. We would have done it anyway. He knew that. He chose to preserve our relationship. It has to rank among the hardest things he ever did. I’m so proud of him for that decision. In the end his concerns were justified. Because we still had a relationship, I was able to call out for help when the worst happened, and he came to my rescue.
This does not apply so much to children not old enough to make their own decisions, but there comes a time when being right isn’t’ worth the price. If you are right, keep the door open for restoration when the time comes. I’m not saying we should never confront bad choices. Though I don’t think there is anything my parents could have said to convince me that I was making a mistake, I sure wish they had been able to, even though I learned a lot from it. Each situation is unique and requires a lot of thought and prayer. I don’t know that outright sin should ever go un-confronted, but I also know how valuable that relationship is. Each person must answer to God and his own conscience. I’m just so thankful that my parents made the wise choices throughout my life, and I want to publicly honor them for that. I hope that inspires other parents I know to seek God for the same wisdom.