Our Keepsake Journal is Here! 🎉

Being a new parent is full of worries, particularly, I feel, for us mothers. Along with the new life that grows within our womb, it seems we are simultaneously growing worry in our minds. You may worry about whether or not you will be able to successfully breastfeed or how you’ll survive that bemoaned lack of sleep. As your child gets older, the worries change, but I don’t think any of us can say that we will ever fully stop worrying about our kids. It’s hard-wired into us.

Something I did not plan on fretting over is how my daughter would interact with others, if at all. Whether or not my child would have friends just wasn’t a concern that occurred to me. However, I happen to be blessed with an exceedingly special girl with a unique set of challenges. My McLaine is seven-years-old and has an undiagnosed genetic disorder. As a result she has mobility challenges, is non-verbal and possesses many autism-like qualities. She is delightful, loving, and bright, but she’s not incredibly social and has very specific interests which aren’t generally age-appropriate in comparison to her typical peers. And so, I quite often worry that she will be excluded or possibly included, but for the wrong reasons.

What I want for my daughter is real friendship. I want her to have friends who value her for the great qualities she brings to the table. I want her to have friends who think she’s funny and smart and love to be around her for that reason. I want her to have friends who love to see her succeed and help her because of that, not because she needs charity. I do not want my daughter to have “friends” because she’s the token disabled kid or they think she’s cute or like having a fun baby doll to care for. All of those things are infantilizing. McLaine is seven, she’s not a baby and she’s a person with real feelings.

Inclusion is what enables the types of real relationships I envision for my daughter. If she is kept in a separate classroom from her typical peers at all times, how will they ever get to know her? The lack of inclusion of children in the special education program reinforces the stereotypes of “different” and “other,” and that’s damaging on multiple levels.

We are incredibly blessed to have McLaine in a school where inclusion is valued. She attends some classes with her typical peers, and is included in all of the activities that go on in her grade. Recently she participated in the first grade musical as an alligator, and, well, that did some good for this worried mama’s heart. We are equally blessed with an amazing church where McLaine is beloved and befriended by children and adults alike within the children’s ministry. She participates in small group, attends worship and even performed with the worship team during VBS this summer (she adores music and did an awesome job).

McLaine is on the left performing during vacation bible school on worship team
McLaine is on the left performing during vacation bible school on worship team

In conclusion, I’d love to give some (unsolicited) advice to the parents of my daughter’s typical peers:

Instead of encouraging your child to befriend a special needs child for no real reason other than their disability, encourage them to notice goodness and commonalities in others and to be kind at every opportunity. This allows the friendships to develop naturally. I know how tempting it is to praise your child for playing with a child with special needs, but unfortunately that can send the wrong message. Praising them for what they see as simply a normal interaction with a peer actually points out to your child that my child should be treated differently. Instead, afterward, ask them about their new friend. “I saw you playing with a new friend today! You both really love to swing. Was there anything else you wanted to tell me about your new friend?”

Inclusion matters because all of our children benefit from it! They all deserve rich friendships and to see life through the eyes of someone with a different point of view.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Lauren Cootes

A mostly stay-at-home mom to a spunky six year old diva with an unknown genetic syndrome and a four year old, wild tornado of a boy, Lauren is passionate about faith, family, food, fitness, social media and all things special needs. She prides herself on being awkwardly honest, is a lover of people and immensely enjoys their stories. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauren.cootes Instagram: https://instagram.com/HonestyandGrace

Dear Graduate, I Love You Forever

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Kindergarten grad

I never imagined these days of preparing for graduation, senior prom, senior photos, and you actually moving out would come. A few weeks into your life, friends gifted you a 6-month sleeper. I remember the cuddly white footie pajamas well. But I swore you’d never get big enough to wear it. How could this 8-pound human grow to fit into 6-month clothes? Impossible. And then somehow they did fit, and then they didn’t anymore. Just like that. Everyone says the days are long but the years are short. Everyone, that is, who has had a lot of years. When I...

Keep Reading

Always Choose Adventure

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Two children looking at aquarium exhibit, color photo

Here’s the thing about traveling with little kids. Is it hard? Sometimes. Sometimes it looks like a whole carry-on dedicated solely to snacks, activities, and emergency treats. Sometimes it looks like buying a drink for the passenger next to you as a way of saying sorry and thank you all at the same time for the airplane kid chaos they endured. Sometimes it looks like altering your picture-perfect itinerary that you meticulously planned on account of missed naps finally catching up. Sometimes it looks like washing a car seat off in a hotel shower because your toddler got carsick, then...

Keep Reading

Love Beyond Words

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother hugging daughter

My daughter Lexi lost her words and some of her motor functioning when she was two years old. She was three when the silent intruder of Rett Syndrome made itself known through seizures. But here’s the heart of our story: even without words, Lexi and I have created our own language—a symphony of unspoken love. She may not call me “Mom” in the traditional sense, but her eyes, her laughter, and the unique sounds she makes speak volumes to my heart. Each day with Lexi is a dance—one where the steps aren’t always clear, and the rhythm can change in...

Keep Reading

Daddy, Am I Beautiful?

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Daddy holding preschool-aged daughter, color photo

“Daddy, do I look beautiful?” I heard my daughter ask my husband from the other room. I barely heard what she said as I was in the kitchen washing the dishes, but her words struck a chord in my heart. My sweet girl, all dressed to go out, asked for her Daddy’s assurance that she was beautiful, that she was admired and special. It hit me in that moment: this pure and built-in desire we all have to be loved, admired, and wanted. Just as my sweet girl wanted her Daddy’s approval and assurance of love, I so often cry...

Keep Reading

Sensitive Sons Are Strong Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Boy pets kitten held by another older boy

My son has always been timid. When he was a baby, he cried when he lost his pacifier in his crib. If I laughed too loudly, he might burst into tears. Once, he was asleep in his bassinet as my husband and I turned on a movie. The MGM lion roared, and he woke in a panic that seemed to take forever to calm. Now, at five years old, my son wrestles, runs, fights, and screams at the television. He pretends to fight bad guys and save me and his twin sister. He thinks he is the king of the...

Keep Reading

Wrestle Like a Girl

In: Kids, Motherhood
Girls wrestling team huddling on the floor

I’m a wrestling mom, but I’m a new breed. I’m the kind with my little girl on the mat. Sure, I support our son out there, and I scream like a wild banshee with the rest of the crazy parents, and I’m in awe of the athletes these boys are. But then steps out our daughter. And it’s different. She decided to join her big bro at practice years ago when word was just starting to spread about the possible emergence of girls’ wrestling. She was only in kindergarten, but I think my husband might have already been thinking college....

Keep Reading

I’ll Hold on To Moments of Childhood with My Preteen as Long as I Can

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Smiling preteen and mother

This Christmas season, my husband took our laser light projector and aimed it at the Australian bottle tree in the front yard. It shone like a thousand red and green fairies dancing through the branches. The first time I saw it, I gasped with glee. Christmas came and went. Much to our 6-year-old’s disappointment, we took down the decorations and boxed them in the attic until next year. I noticed that my husband forgot to put away the light projector though. One Friday night, recovering from a stomach bug, we decided to watch Wonka and fold laundry. We bought into the...

Keep Reading

“Tell Me Another Story, Daddy?”

In: Kids
Man reading to young son

“Tell me another story, Daddy?” I had heard these words since we had finished supper. My 5-year-old son loves hearing stories. He loves to put himself in these stories. He doesn’t just watch Paw Patrol, he’s in Paw Patrol. He is a Kratt brother. And he loves hearing stories about his favorite adventurers with him saving the day alongside his animated heroes. While I absolutely love telling stories to my son, there are many days when I don’t feel like it. When I want to say, “No, Daddy is tired. Why don’t you go play with your toys while daddy...

Keep Reading

Getting Glasses Can be an Adjustment

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Pre-teen wearing glasses

On their last break from school, my daughter and son happily enjoyed a nice week of catching up with friends and having a relaxed schedule. I was careful to avoid overloading our schedule so we had a nice balance of days out and days being at home. As can often happen on a school break, I used one day as our “appointments day.” We had our routine dental checks and eye exams booked. The morning went smoothly with the dentist, and then it was time to head home for lunch. Next, we popped back out to do the children’s eye...

Keep Reading

To the Fifth Grade Parents: Thank You

In: Child, Kids, Motherhood
Arcade style photo machine, color photo

To the fifth-grade parents in my community: How are we here already? The end of fifth grade. The end of elementary school. It feels like yesterday we saw each other at kindergarten drop off, some of us through the tears of sending our first baby to school, some seasoned pros, and a small group of us with a touch of extra worry in our mama hearts—the special ed mamas. Among the many things I worried about sending my kindergarten son to school was how your children would treat him. Would they laugh at him like they did at his Montessori...

Keep Reading