Who knew that the kitchen floor would be the place for a monumental conversation?
Kate hopped out of bed one night recently. I was puttering in the kitchen and she plopped herself down on the floor. I don’t know what stopped me from firmly giving the stay-in-bed-lecture. I stopped what I was doing instead, thankfully, and sat down beside her.
Maybe I intuitively knew what was coming.
Kate: I wish Ryan didn’t have any special needs.
(THUD…Did you hear my heart just pierce?)
Me: So do I, Kate. What makes you say that?
Kate: It makes me sad.
Me: That is ok to feel sad. It makes me sad, too, sometimes. (Darnit, then my tears start rolling…)
Kate: I wish it was a secret between our family and the school.
(Note: Ryan goes to a separate public elementary school from Luke and Kate, one that better suits his needs.)
Me: Are you embarrassed sometimes Kate?
Kate: (No answer. At first, she was silent with this question.)
Kate: I just wish nobody knew. That it was a secret.
Me: Well, in our family, we don’t keep secrets. Not unless someone has a surprise gift or surprise party. (Why I said this instead of just asking her if anyone said anything to her at school escapes me.)
Me: Its perfectly ok, Kate, to feel that way. Mom and Dad wish Ryan didn’t have ANY problems or struggles. We wish he was totally healthy, that his brain and body were not different from yours. Its ok to get sad, mad or frustrated, or embarrassed about it. We get sad, too.
At this point Chris chimed in and joined the kitchen floor party.
Chris: You know what, Kate? You are also kind of lucky to have Ryan as your brother. And he is so lucky to have you and Luke.
Kate’s eyes widened and she said, “Really?”
Chris: You will grow up to be such a sweet girl, with such a big caring heart.
Me: And you will be an even better mommy and wife someday because you learned so much from being a sister to Ryan.
Kate: I will???? (Big smile.)
Me: Yes, absolutely you will. God gave Ryan to our family, and even though its hard sometimes, we will all be better people, and nicer, stronger, and have more compassion.(At least I hope so…I think to myself.)
So I stood up from the hard kitchen floor and helped Kate get up. We meandered to her room, hand in hand, slowly. I tucked her in and kissed her sweet cheeks over and over.
As I walked away, I prayed silently, for Kate and Luke, to be spared any long-term anger issues, or any resentment or bitterness, from having a disabled brother, and a unique family story. May they not grow up feeling overburdened or neglected in any way. May they grow up to be people of compassion and patience, kindness and wisdom. May they turn the pain of this all into something beautiful for others in their world.