Tomorrow my son will be 13. You may not be able to appreciate this milestone but for us (and him) it’s a huge one.
He has come so far.
My son has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He was born 5 weeks premature weighing in at 5 lbs. We finalized his adoption when he was 2-years-old, but he has been with us since birth. During his first 12 years of life he has struggled both medically and emotionally. Along with FAS his medical conditions include ADHD, Epilepsy/Grand Mal, mood disorder, small stature and is academically challenged.
Our family has had many ups and downs over the years as we learn more about FAS. We have seen first hand the side effects. These include physical and neurological effects on the body. Often I am overcome with emotions. Anger over the life that he was given. Sadness knowing he wants so desperately to feel normal and fit in. Frustration because others judge and do not understand him when he is acting impulsively. I want to shout out to the world that he is not a bad child. He is actually a success story. He is surviving.
Even as parents we often lose sight of our children’s successes when times are tough. We tend to focus on the negative and we forget how to celebrate each of their successes. We allow how others react to our children to beat us down emotionally. We want to educate everyone we meet about our children so that judgement will not be passed on their behaviors. Is it our job to warn everyone we meet about our children and how they may act at times? Nope. But we want to. Because we want our children to be accepted, loved and seen through our eyes.
My son has been given challenges most parents would not purposely impose on their children. Despite all of these challenges he fights. He is a fighter. He is my fighter. He fought in the hospital to thrive as a preemie. He fights in school to stay on grade level. He fights to be accepted by his peers and to fit in. He fights to control his impulsive behaviors. He fights to be understood. He wants to be seen as a good boy. And he is!
I celebrate his victories.
I ask that each of you celebrate the little victories in your own children. Don’t let others beat you down. If you see a family struggling in public with their child – celebrate them! Celebrate that they made it to the store and they are doing their very best. Don’t assume a challenging child is bad or misbehaving. They have a story, too. Educate your children on acceptance and how to make every child feel included.
Most importantly I want to tell my 13-year-old son – thank you. Thank you for showing me what a true fighter looks like and teaching me to love unconditionally. I heart YOU!