In May of 2016, our daughter, her husband, and their one-year-old son moved in with my husband and me. Not for a few weeks or months until they found their own place to live. But permanently. Forever. As in, we are here to assist them while they raise their family, and they’ll be our caretakers when we can no longer care for ourselves.
When people hear about the arrangement—even though we explain that the decision was made after months of prayer, frequent discussions, and a three week trial—the reaction is identical. The same worried expression appears on every face, and the same question gets asked.
How’s that working for you?
The fact of the matter is that our grand adventure of multi-generational living* is working quite well. We’re pretty sure the reason the adjustment has gone smoothly is the prayer and planning that preceded the decision. And God’s provision through the quick sale of our previous house after we unexpectedly found one that meets our new family circumstances beautifully. But truth be told, our changed circumstances are doing more than working for our family.
Our changed circumstances are working change in me.
Daily, my admiration grows for parents who graciously accept the constant disruption that is part of raising young children. The young parents at our house are living examples of how to adjust priorities, how to put the needs of others ahead of self, and the importance of being flexible. All skills I relinquished with glee when we became empty nesters and that I am now relearning.
The relearning is hard work.
Harder than I thought it would be considering my history as the parent of a child with special needs. After all, I was the queen of adjusted priorities every time our son had a health scare that turned life upside down. I put my son’s needs ahead of mine for what felt like a lifetime, including an entire year of pumping breast milk when he was tube fed and allergic to all formulas. I was so flexible during his first four years of life that I should have tried out for the USA gymnastics team.
Parenting a child with special needs was hard work.
But my husband and I woke up every day and did it. You wake up every day, put one foot ahead of the other and do the work of parenting your child with special needs. Then you fall into bed, wake up in the morning and do it again. Because every day you choose to love sacrificially. The kind of love that requires hard work without the promise of immediate gratification. The kind of love Christ demonstrated during his life on earth and through His work on the cross. The kind of love that changes your heart, your purpose, your priorities, and your focus.
So, how’s special needs parenting working for you?
It’s changing you in the same way two families in one house is changing me. Our Father uses circumstances like yours and mine to point us to His Son. To fill us with awe and gratitude for what He’s done for us. To soften and changes our hearts so His will becomes our priority. So we desire to emulate Christ and put the needs of others ahead of self. So we are flexible and ready for what He has planned for us. For His glory and our good. Forever and ever. Amen.
He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
*My daughter snickers whenever I say “multi-generational living.” She prefers “two families living in the same house.”