Almost every personal success story I read starts with something like “When I was a kid my (mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, teacher, or some person) really believed in me and encouraged me. They told me I could accomplish anything!” As parents, we all have high expectations for our children. We want them to be successful and happy! We want them to achieve more than we have or could hope to! I believe all parents plan to encourage and do everything they can to make sure there are no limitations in their children’s way.
Unfortunately, for so many families something changes along the way. What do you do when your child is born with a disability, or a disorder. Or what if you are hearing from other people, (doctors or teachers) that your child has a disability, a developmental disorder or a delay that may keep them from achieving dreams they might have. Phrases like “it’s ok, it’s just too hard for them,” or “they will never be able to (fill in the blank), and that’s ok” start echoing throughout these kids’ lives.
This issue is one that is very close to my heart. I spent 8 years as a special education teacher, working with kids that needed encouragement, and someone to believe in them despite their difficulties from physical or mental disabilities. I saw so many kids give up and stop trying simply, because no one expected them to be able to accomplish anything. This became even more personal when my 2nd son was born.
Here’s our story…
Our Bub is born!
As soon as our little boy arrived, instead of hearing the words “Here he is, he’s perfect,” we heard, “oh”s and “oh no”s echo through the operating room. Our pediatrician came over and brought our precious little “bub” to me and I heard him say, “He’s perfect, except…”. He told me that our baby had one hand fully developed but the other had a thumb but no fingers. He told us they would need to do x-rays and tests to find out if there was anything else wrong, that these types of things can be isolated, but they are often accompanied with other disorders or defects. So as we waited we prayed, and believed that God had a plan and we were going to trust him for our son. It was one of the most emotional and exhausting times of our lives.
Praise God, they could find nothing else wrong with our little Bub. The doctors couldn’t find any reason why his hand didn’t grow. He was a perfectly normal and healthy boy, except that he was missing fingers on one hand. We were rejoicing that we had our little boy, he was so tiny and perfectly healthy. We wanted to just enjoy this time with our new baby. However, we also had to deal with the reality that our son had what doctors called a “limb deficiency”. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster! Nothing can prepare you for that moment when you hear doctors or someone else say your child is less than perfect. It is heartbreaking as a parent to hear that your child has something, no matter how big or small it is, that they are going to have to work to overcome their entire life.
The doctors visits!
They did some basic tests and x-rays while we were in the hospital, and then we had the normal follow-ups at the pediatrician. Our pediatrician was very encouraging. Bub was perfectly healthy, praise God! Our doctor sat and talked with us as long as we needed, answering questions and telling us everything he knew about Bub’s hand and what the causes may be. He also gave us several stories of people he knew that did great things without a hand or fingers. One younger kid he knew was a really good baseball player. Another man he knew was a doctor in the area. He then encouraged us to look for someone we knew that had a connection to the Shiners Hospital for Children.
We pursued that immediately and we are so glad that we did! They checked out our little bub and could also find nothing wrong with him. It was so encouraging to hear from doctors that see kids with limb deficiencies like Bub’s every day. They were amazing, knew what we needed to hear, and spent time talking with us. They too could find no other delays, problems, or a cause.
As encouraging and amazing as Bub’s doctors were we were still in the same place. All we knew was that our son was healthy, he had a limb deficiency, no one could tell why, and right now there didn’t appear to be any other problems or delays. However the questions were still there: “How would we deal with this?”, “What kinds of problems will he have to deal with?”, “Will he be able to learn to tie his shoes and button his pants?” and so many others.
My husband and I knew that we had a choice to make. We could look at Bub in one of 2 ways. We could focus on the fact that Bub had a limb deficiency and see him as someone with limitations, not expecting him to be able to do everything. Or we could look at him as God sees him! A child who is “fearfully, and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) that God entrusted to us. Someone without limitations that could accomplish anything.
We decided that the word “limitations” does not exist, he is our child, just like our older son. Why should we treat this child any different than our first son. We knew when we started having kids that we were going to teach them that anything was possible for them! “With God, all things are Possible” (Matthew 19:26). If we really believed this then why should we lower our expectations for Bub. There are no such thing as limitations for God! So, when he was still just a little baby that we knew that we would believe God for our Bub, and teach him that no matter what, all things are possible!
Yes, we knew that he might have to work harder than others to achieve the same things, but there is no reason he shouldn’t try if its something he wants! All we knew right then was that we would never tell our child that he couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do something because it was too hard!
What Bub can do now…
Our Bub is 5 years old now and he is an encouragement to me everyday! He is full of joy and determination! I praise God that I have him and for all that I learned from him. He plays video games moving a joystick or pad with his thumb or small palm of his left hand. He moves his hand quickly to reach buttons on the top of a game controller, and can keep up and play just about as well as his 7 year old brother. Building with legos, which some would think would be hard for him, is one of his favorite things to do! He squeezes little pieces in his little palm and is able to snap almost anything together! He is your typical active 5 year old boy!
Recently, I was given a little test. Bub asked me to teach him to play piano. For a second I wanted to say to him, “that’s going to be a little hard are you sure…”. But I stopped myself. Why shouldn’t he learn to play the piano. I wanted to suggest other instruments that might be easier for him, but why? He might have to learn it a little differently than everyone else, just like he has many other things he’s learned, but it’s not impossible! So we started lessons! He loves it and is so proud. I don’t know how far we’ll go or if he will be a great musician one day or not. All I know is that if he wants to he can! If I put limitations on him now, for things like playing the piano, then he will also begin to start putting limitations on himself!
Possibilities or Limitations?
We all have a choice to make when we have kids. When you look at your children are you going to see the Possibilities or the Limitations that they have? The reality is that your child will be affected positively or negatively based on your view point of their life. If you see limitations then that is what they will hear and how they will live. If you see possibilities then they will grow up believing in themselves and know that anything is possible. It all starts with you as the parent(s).
I have seen so many well-meaning parents accept the limitations for their kids. Sometimes it was because of a diagnosis of a real physical or developmental disorder. Other times these limitations were just based off patterns from their own lives (for example, I struggled in school, so my child will probably have a hard time, also). It is never too late to start believing in our kids! Ask yourself “what do I see for my kids? Limitations or Possibilities?” If you have been seeing the limitations for your kid(s), I want you to know that it is not to late to change! Now is the time to start believing in them and telling them of the possibilities they have. All it takes is you seeing and believing the possibilities for them first. If you do, don’t be surprised when your kid(s) start to believe it too.
Don’t accept limitations for your kids. Believe and know that anything is possible for them!