I’ve asked myself that question many times in the last 28 years. Certainly, in our family, there is enough love to go around but do the healthy kids feel slighted and end up feeling left out? Will they move far away as adults to get away from all the medical chaos that goes on daily at our house? Or will they have overwhelming guilt because they were the healthy ones in our family lottery? Maybe they will act out so they receive any attention. After all, negative attention is better than no attention. All of these questions go through the minds of parents of children with differing needs.
Maybe the healthy kids will be on the other end of the spectrum and be loving and compassionate caretakers of their siblings. Or maybe they will just quietly accept all the attention their siblings need. While on the surface, this sounds great, I wouldn’t want my ‘typical’ kids to ever experience caregiver stress or quiet depression. I know those feelings too well.
Trying to balance the needs of all the children in the family is no easy task! It always ends up the same though – I feel guilty.
We have gone on vacation without MaryEllen and Kevin and while the rational side of me knows that they are much more comfortable and happy at home, the guilty mom side of me nags at me constantly. How could I go away and have fun with half of my children at home?
On the other side of the coin, how can I ever be forgiven for missing softball games, baseball games, class trips and college tours for Katie and James?
I wonder if ‘normal’ moms have the same guilty thoughts. Is it just a mom thing?
I asked Katie and James (who are now 30 and 18), what they think. I wondered if they felt like they missed out on a normal childhood because of MaryEllen and Kevin. I must be honest though. I waited until they were old enough to answer correctly! Both of them answered similarly. Although they may have missed out on some things, overall they are happy because they have compassion and empathy towards people with disabilities. (Don’t ask these questions during the tumultuous middle and high school years. I warned you!)
If looking back provides the answers, I can say that providing a solid, loving foundation for all the kids does work. It may not feel like it 99% of the time. I can attest to that. But as everyone grows up and matures, I believe that children with siblings that have special needs do fare well. Better than I ever imagined, even. So, moms, let’s unite and not feel guilty! Don’t waste time wondering if you are ruining your kids forever. They will be okay. I promise.
How do I know? Here’s James reminding me.