As parents, we’re used to making sacrifices for our kids. We sacrifice “me” time to play yet another game of Chutes and Ladders. We sacrifice designer clothing and high-priced vacations to sock money away for college. And sometimes, we sacrifice time with our kids in order to put a roof over their heads and food on the table.
But sometimes, our kids need an even bigger gift, a sacrifice that says, “Yes. I can put my own needs aside and do that for you.” In his column “Modern Love,” Joe Blair writes about that gift and why he’s giving it to his special needs son.
Blair writes about his son, Michael, a boy whose favorite pastime is pacing in the backyard, swinging a belt into serpentine waves. When Blair’s wife Deb describes Michael’s experience to his twin sister, Lucy, she says:
“Imagine if you found yourself in the middle of China somewhere. And everyone was trying to talk to you. But you couldn’t understand them. And everyone thought you were stupid. But you were still just like you are. How would you feel?”
But Michael — for reasons unknown to everyone else — finds comfort in the ocean. Blair says that upon seeing it, Michael dropped his ever-present belt and laid down in the warm sand, finding peace in the noisy, repeating waves.
But the Blairs live in Iowa City, the middle of the country, no where near an ocean. He writes of this dilemma:
The great challenge I asked for when I was a boy, imagining the crack of doom and the Argonauts and the seven feats of Hercules, is lying in bed next to me, very close to my face. Faith is nothing other than an acceptance of eternity and, at the same time, of death. The great challenge, my great challenge, is nothing other than, in the face of eternity and death, a question of kindness.
Can I, being alive at this time, love this boy? Can I listen to him? Can I be a good father to this boy?
We have glimpsed the future, of Mike at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, his sporadic anger triggering the need for drugs, restraints, while I grow older, smaller and weaker. And Deb and I decided that we want a shot at a different future, one in which Mike, near his beloved waves, in a place where it seems he belongs, maybe isn’t so troubled.
And so, the Blairs will pack up their belongings and head to the coast — which coast and which ocean, Blair doesn’t say, but he does add that it’s without the safety net of a job or support system … a true leap of faith for love.
Have you ever taken a similar leap for your child?