I have had children in my house for over thirty years. By society’s judgement, each child was broken in some way. I never questioned that assumption. After all, I was very busy meeting the needs of these children and fighting schools, social groups, and neighbors, trying to make a place for them. When society’s opinion was thrust into my consciousness, I would look at my kids and see why they were considered broken and then move on. There was 9 year old Ralph, who sat and talked to my car’s headlights while he snacked on my flowers. There was 14 year old Vernon, who in anger set more than 30 fires in his home town before he came to me. There was a 5 year old who didn’t know what a broom was and hadn’t ever heard the word no. I was only mildly surprised when he tried to beat up his soccer team… the whole team. I had children with TBI, schizophrenia,and trauma histories that were beyond anything I could comprehend. Yet these kids went to regular schools and were expected to meet ordinary expectations. It was inevitable that these children, and my others, were considered broken. Yet, even in the beginning, I was aware that “broken” was only part of it.
My kids made me laugh, could be kind, and were frequently creative. They found joy in the ordinary and let me come along for the ride. They had compassion for those weaker or more disadvantaged. Everyday traditions could make their eyes shine. This was my life for a long time. I stopped taking in kids in 2002. My kids were older, had graduated from high school and I enjoyed a year of a social life with friends whose children were also more grown up than not.
GB is my granddaughter. She went to the NICU directly from the birthing room. I took custody of her at two months and her parents were gone before she turned six months. GB didn’t smile at all and missed her early milestones. She started EI at seven months. I didn’t know what was wrong, although I knew there was a problem. Like all my earlier kids, society considered GB broken. But I was different, I had changed. At 11 months, I found out she was FAS. By the time she was four, I knew she was bipolar. At seven and a half, autistic was added. Each diagnosis felt like I had been blindsided. Intellectually, I understood them and knew they were right. Emotionally, I was equally sure there was nothing broken about this child.
It has taken a year of contemplation to come to term with these incompatible ideas. GB is not neuro-typical. She is also not broken. She is exactly what God made her to be. God knows her gifts and her challenges and has given me the honor of being her mom. I love her smile. I love watching her dance as she is carried away by the beat of music.I share her joy as her garden blooms with color. I enjoy the pride she has in her cartwheels, in her ability to swim, and the food she cooks for us. I know it can take GB several minutes to be able to verbally express a thought. I see that she is able to relax and share real communication with only the few she trusts. I know that I have to check for minefields before I put her in any new situation. I am responsible for making sure she gets enough sleep and that she eats when she needs to. She can’t tell me what hurts or why she can’t cope. It is part of who she is.
GB is not broken. She is exactly the person God made her to be. She is my gift from Him.