Photo: Unsplash/S&B Vonlanthen

"Mom, I am a happy child"

Amidst a mother's struggles and suffering in the face of her son's disability, until she realizes that he "lives each day responding to a love"...

We have three wonderful children, the oldest is a "special” needs child - a kind term, but it essentially means that he is disabled. He is 11 years old and although he does things that no doctor imagined possible, he has many limitations and struggles particularly from a cognitive point of view: he does not read, he barely writes his name and he cannot learn any numbers except 1 and 2.

A few weeks ago, I was putting him to bed and he saw his brother in bed reading and asked me, "Mommy, why can I not read?" I confess that my heart broke, and not only because I did not have an answer for him, but because, initially, his unawareness of his limitations almost gave me comfort, whereas all his desire to be like others, like his brothers, was in that question. I put together a few sentences and then lay next to him so he could sleep. At a certain point he said to me: "Mom, I am a happy child".

I was speechless and in the following days I started to observe him better to understand how he could say such a thing, considering the effort he makes every day at school, the limitations we imposed upon various experiences. I realized that he lives every moment because he responds to a love he feels towards himself. He gets up in the morning because we call him, he works hard at school because his teacher is there, he does his homework because I am next to him, he learns with great difficulty to ride his bike because his dad does not let him go for a moment. A few Sundays ago, he started to be an altar boy in our parish: during mass he watches us all the time and his brothers never lose sight of him. Every evening he says to me: "Mom, I want you to stay with me forever!".

I, who in these months feel so overwhelmed by uncertainty and fear, have in front of me a child who does not know how to take care of himself, but who lives each day because he knows he is loved and he simply responds to this love.

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How many times have I experienced this hardship that we have been given as unjust and have often envied my closest friends and their healthy children (and I am certainly not proud of these thoughts). However, the vocation of my life, of my marriage, of my relationships with my closest friends, passes precisely through the contradiction of my son’s illness and his effort, through the free and affectionate gazes of his siblings.

Signed letter