Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Open Letter About Judgment

This past week, my family and I had another appointment with a specialist. For us, it's like a six-month rotation from one specialist to another. Just as we think we are hitting a lull, it's time for the rotation to begin again.

At our appointment with our new orthopedic, however, we had an interesting conversation about our situation of raising three girls, two with brain injuries.

“It's not unique that you have two children with cerebral palsy,” said the orthopedic, a thin woman with blonde hair, green eyes and a pleasant smile.

“It's unique that they are both biologically yours. Many of the parents we see here who have two special needs children but most of the time they have adopted them,” she added

“I'm not sure that I understand who those parents are,” I quickly responded, just as I have said before when discussing parents who adopt special needs children.

Sometimes my responses are automatic, like I'm conditioned to offer MY answer on why people choose to adopt kids like mine.

“To each their own,” she responded, as the conversation came to an end.

As a caregiver and a parent for the past nine years, one thing that continues to be apparent in each appointment is that I am bound to learn something new that's unrelated to my daughters' health conditions.

There are tiny lessons I walk away with, ranging from my interactions or observations in the waiting room to a revelation on the drive to or from the appointment itself.

If I could tally each lesson on paper, I'm sure I could fill a book. It would be a simple list of the lessons that contribute to becoming a better person – or at least pondering a new perspective.

What's more is that I have found that typically the lesson carries into other interactions or happenings beyond that appointment, like my weeks have “lesson themes.”

The lesson in our exchange with the orthopedic is that as parents who didn't ask for our situation, there are other people willing to take it head on, and then some. My comment was purely judgmental because I questioned the intentions of such parents.

As a person, I find that sometimes I want to be singled out, I want special attention for all my extra parenting efforts, and it all boils down to self-preservation while questioning the intentions of others.

I am guilty of thinking that I can do things better than others.

Until that conversation, I didn't think I could understand why people would 'choose' to adopt kids who are medically fragile.

But, how can I question when I truly believe the intent is they simply want to give children with special needs more than a foster home or an institution would give them.

So if there was ever a theme for this week, it was that I learned the difference between being judgmental and being discerning.  

Judgment is very tricky. While I try to not be judgmental, I constantly am. I catch myself more than I used to and am working on it all of the time.

Even when I think I understand what it's like to be a parent of special needs children, I can only walk in my shoes, on my mountain and explain my view from here.

While I know that I will not always agree with other parenting styles, their motivations or other topics (matters of the heart or the mind), I'm working hard to differentiate between judgment and discernment.

If you are anyone who's like me (and I think you may be) then you are doing the best damn job you know how to do, and I'm gonna constantly keep myself open to see what I can learn from you.

Tim Gort is a writer, public speaker and advocate who shares his personal challenges and triumphs of being a father of three, two with cerebral palsy, at the family’s bog:


  1. Thank you for sharing the lessons and the gifts today. I needed it. :-)

  2. I'm not sure what catergory you would put us in. We were blessed with our son when he was 4.5 months old as a foster child. He was not expected to walk or talk. He was not expected to survive. I could write a book on our foster parenting experience and I'm not talking about my child (another story) but the system. Our son is 12 and we have guardianship. This insures that he has all his medical needs taken care of and he is provided for. Most people do not understand why we chose guardianship but our son is our son just as much as our bio daughter is our daughter. We were doubly blessed with our duo.

  3. Thanks for your comments and feedback. I'm glad for them because they give me a greater understanding.

  4. As I learn from my girls every single day, different isn't bad. Sometimes I feel like parents of special kids get judged more just because sometimes we do things differently, according to our kids' needs, but if my girls -- my 9-year-old with cerebral palsy and my 3-year-old with Down Syndrome -- are "different", then how can doing things differently possibly be a bad thing?

  5. It bothers me that I let myself feel judged by people who have never ever come close to walking in my shoes. And because I feel judged by them I find myself judging their actions on how they raise their normal healthy kids. Growing up I came from the family that did everything different we always stood out from the crowd from our out dated clothes to our out dated car my mom wearing her hair differently than other moms she always looked like she stepped out of an old Norwegian cottage. I hated being different! I always wanted to just fit in and look and do like everyone else.
    But with my children's illness of Metachromatic Leukodystrophy I have decided that different is better.
    And I just need to keep in mind that the people I feel are judging me could never know what it "looks like from my view" I loved this thanks for sharing

  6. I appreciated your article. I am a mother to 13 children. 4 biological and 9 adopted. All of our adopted have Special Needs of various levels. We didn't go looking for Special Needs kids - indeed three of our adopted were adopted at birth. There were no known special needs when we adopted them. Our process with all of our children was this: we had a desire to have a child, we prayed and listened to God's spirit. God blessed us with a child.
    As I see it, our biological children did not have physical or mental disabilities but they had their own unique challenges that we faced with them as parents. Our goals with them were to help them succeed and become the best adults/people we could help them to become.
    After our fourth child, when we desired to expand our family we put it again to prayer and listened. The answer and result was we adopted a sibling group of seven (one was a newborn.) We knew there were some learning disabilities and trauma from their past, but, we accepted the challenges as we did with our newborn birth children. There are always unknowns with parenting.
    As it ended up, the newborn had severe handicaps that would grow in intensity with time. And a number had severe mental disorders that run in their biological family that we later discovered. All of them have multiple life long challenges that require additional care and support from loving parents. And we are here for the long haul. It wasn't what we were expecting but we knew these were the children God had planned for us to raise and we are grateful for His trust in us.
    After realizing the magnitude of our situation, we personally thought we were done with adding children but God spoke to our hearts and another infant was added to our family. He too has disabilities that were not known ahead of time.
    Again we thought we were done but the adoption agency called us two years later with a surprise - a birth mother had requested us (we were not looking but we were in their old files - when the birth mother did not find what she was looking for in their current files they went to old files and she selected us.) Again we were blessed with an infant and again he has some special needs although more minor in nature. Our goal for each of our adopted children is the very same as was for our bios, specifically, be the very best parents we can be for each one of them and help each one individually become the best they can become.
    I don't know what all peoples motives are for adoption or for adopting Special Needs - I would hope that like us, most people are following a desire that has been placed upon their heart to love a child unconditionally. I am of the belief that all good desires come from God.
    I know when suddenly faced with a Special Needs child their is a lot of questions of why me or why us that people go through. But having walked on more than one mountain and seen more than one view I have found that the mountain of having a Special Needs child is higher and has many more rough spots to climb over but MAN!! What a view!!!!
    I no longer take even the simplest of things for granted. My eyes have been opened so to speak and I am one of the lucky ones. I know and understand things about love and life, sacrifice, joy and sorrow, that only a few have opportunity to understand. PRAISE GOD for selecting our home and family to share this life with His earthly angels.