It is pretty much a given that all parents love their children. I think the greater difficulty is making sure our kids can feel our love. This goes for all our kids, neurotypical or not. The other day, I overheard my 8 year old daughter’s conversation with her best friend because she likes to put her phone on speaker. “My mom hates me!” her friend cried. Lia consoled her friend, “Of course she doesn’t hate you. All parents love their children.” It was a proud moment for me to hear my daughter’s concern and wisdom, but it also illustrated that our love for our kids doesn’t always come across to them.
Knowing what I know now about Philip’s comprehension and intelligence makes me wonder how my love came across to him. Of course I love my son to pieces and want the best possible life for him, but did he feel my love? I didn’t know my son could understand me, so I talked about him in front of him- every frustration, every perceived deficit. I couldn’t understand him because he couldn’t talk or gesture, so I’d get impatient and yell at him. Philip didn’t fit into the image of my dreams, so I tried to mold him to my image. I wonder how that all made him feel. Did he know how much I love him? It scares me now to realize how easily we can treat those who have no voice with lesser dignity even if we have the best intentions. If that could happen in my own home, how much more does it happen to the many disabled individuals out in the world? How do they feel? Do they feel loved?
There is a famous passage in the Bible that is often spoken at weddings. It is a picture of how I want to show my love to all my kids, as well as my husband. It will take extra practice with Philip, but I am determined it is the only way he will feel my love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)