As the parent of a child with an intellectual disability, a child with special needs, some of of my least favorite words are, “God chooses special parents for special children. You are so special.” Gag! In fact, while I was pregnant a friend said those very words to me and I responded, “Then you go be special because it doesn’t feel very good right now.” Fortunately, she is a dear friend who loves me a lot and looks past my sassy mouth. I think God creates all children special and He intends for all parents to be special. If we are special because we have a child with special needs, does that mean those other children are not special? I know people usually mean no harm with such statements and I have learned to smile in response. Really that is not the point of today’s blog. I want to talk about birthdays and birthday traditions.
Rachel’s 12th birthday is Monday. If you live within 500 miles of us, you’ve been hearing about it for months. She celebrates a birthday like no one else. Being an only child just adds to that center of the universe attitude. As we approached her first birthday we decided we wanted to create a tradition that would hold meaning for her as she grew up. I don’t know where we came up with the idea because I know it wasn’t original on our part, but we decided that each birthday she would receive a special book from her Daddy and me. We also decided that each year each of us would write a letter to Rachel inside the cover. We both have input on the chosen book. Some years it is a classic while others are our own childhood favorites and others have been popular books from that particular year. For example, two years ago we gave her “Pinkalicious”. She is perfectly pink so it was perfect. I have fun going back and reading the entries. It’s usually about this time of year when read through, and Rachel likes to read the letters now too. The ones in cursive she needs some help with but otherwise she does very well. She grins and says “oh sweet” a lot as she reads.
For her first birthday, I knew exactly the book I wanted her to have and Jonathan agreed. Though I really don’t like the “special” tag, one of my favorite books is “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. I find it ironic that one my favorites books would be tagged with the word “special” long before I became “special” by having a child with “special” needs. Congratulations if you followed that sentence! I contend it is one more way God shows He has a great sense of humor. I’ve been giving this book to friends since long before Rachel. It communicates beautifully the concept that I am trying to capture: we are all special because God created us. It doesn’t matter if you have an intellectual disability, if you are a great athlete, if you have genius IQ, if you have a bad attitude or if you have star power, God created you and He created you perfectly. I’ve given this book to graduates, babies, adult friends, children, and relatives. It is just a beautiful book and should be part of your library. Today, I want to share with you what I wrote to Rachel on her first birthday:
“Dearest Rachel. Happy 1st Birthday my little angel girl! This has been an exciting year. You and I have learned and have done so many things. You have mastered many skills – too many to name here. We spend lots of time together – playing, singing, reading, dancing and just going. I love to kiss you and you love trying to pull my face off! Most importantly, you have brought a deep love and joy to mommy and daddy’s lives and to many other people. People are drawn to you. Maybe it is because you have always been a sweet baby and people love to babysit you and have you in the church nursery. Maybe it’s because of those piercing blue eyes that lock into people. Nothing brightens my day like your big wide smile or watching your face light up when you see your daddy. Before you were born I told you that you weren’t what I wasn’t expecting. I also told you that I understood we probably weren’t what you were expecting either! But you know you are much better than my wildest expectations. You are the most angelic, sweet and precious thing that I could ever imagine. I tell you quite often “you are better than I ever imagined, and you are! I love you, my little Rachel. Happy First Birthday. Love you always and forever Mommy. ”