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: http://thegortfamily.blogspot.com