The other day I had a realization.
My daughter asked to go play outside in our backyard. My two sons wanted to join her, but they are unfortunately unable to do a lot of physical activities. I helped them get dressed and put their shoes on. At seven and nine, most boys their age are old enough to put on their own shoes and play outside independently, but our situation is different. Due to their Muscular Dystrophy they are unable to bend down, jump, climb or run. Thankfully they are still able to walk, but rely on their wheelchairs for distance.
I was nervous my boys would get hurt outside. They fall often if they overdo it physically but I didn’t want them to feel left out, so off we went. We have a small area of grass, a small concrete patio and a playhouse with a slide attached that we’ve had for years.
My four year old ran off to drive her “little tikes” car and go down the slide. I sat down on the patio watching my daughter scoot around happily, but my boys just stood there watching her. It was like they suddenly realized how much their lives had changed in recent years. I saw their faces change from excitement to sadness as they looked around the backyard solemnly. They used to be able to climb and go down that same slide, but the couldn’t anymore. They used to be able to keep up with their little sister… but not anymore. “There’s nothing we can play with out here,” my oldest son said sadly and started to head back inside.
I felt so bad for them.
After rummaging through our outdoor toy bin I found a few squirt guns and filled them up. They started squirting each other and laughing. I felt relieved until the boys muscle weakness once again took the reins and they started to have trouble pulling the trigger. It started to hurt their fingers and they turned to head back inside, defeated by their efforts. I didn’t want them to give up. They already feel like the outside world was made for everyone but them, I didn’t want them to feel that way at home.
I didn’t want this to be our memory of the day. They never ask to play outside anymore, and I desperately wanted this to be a good experience.
I went inside to fill up the squirt gun for my daughter again and felt the tears begin to fall down my cheeks. Why does everything have to be so hard for my precious boys? Pity rushed over me like a wave and the tears continued to fall. I felt pity for myself, pity for my sweet boys and pity for all the special needs children that feel defeated every time they try to do ordinary things like play outside.
When I walked back outside I heard the best sound in the world, the sound of my kids laughing together. My daughter was driving her little pink car, and my boys were pretending to direct traffic. They were imagining they were all at the Grand Canyon and they had to protect their sister from driving off the cliff (or sidewalk). Then we all sat down in the sunshine looking for rolly-pollies together.
Suddenly my feelings of sorrow and pity faded and all I felt was intense gratitude. A simple memory on a sunny weekday afternoon turned from frustrating to fun because of my children’s ability to find joy everywhere, even in the constant obstacles they face.
That day made me realize something.
Each moment we face that brings us despair, sadness and self pity is almost always followed by a beautiful moment worthy of praise.
What started out as pity turned to praise in the blink of an eye and by the time we went back inside the sun was fading and my heart was full. ALL three of my kids had fun that day, and that meant the world to me.
My children are resilient little warriors. They don’t dwell on what they used to be able to do, so why should I? They just do what they can and look for joy in every single moment. They didn’t give in to their feelings of frustration, they found a way to enjoy the moment. They inspire me every day to do the same.
We can all learn so much from children.
If we try we can all take our moments of pity and frustration and turn them into moments of praise. We can praise God for another day together. We can praise Him for the sunshine, the rolly-pollies, and the stunning resilient nature of children.
Rain or shine, let us never forget to change our focus from pity to praise. Trust me, it makes all the difference.