Childhood in summer. Unique for each kid, but much the same. It’s giggles, all day PJs, Crocs and popsicles. Children meeting, then heading out into the sunshine hand in hand as easy friends. The sun offers a special freedom.
One of our recent summer days had notable stats: 1 water park, 4 mommas, 18 kids, 7 children adopted from China, a long list of medical needs represented, 12 snack breaks, and 6 hours drenched in June sunshine.
4 of these kids, home less than a year from China, had medical needs that might have kept them home that day.
One sat in her stroller with a cast from her waist down to her toes helping heal her hip dysplasia, her momma visiting in between cardiology and orthopedic specialist appointments. She shared Teddy Grahams with friends who peered into her stroller and sometimes splashed her fingers in the water. Sunshine on her skin, she was a child in summer.
Another laughed and played with waterproof cochlear implants attached to each ear. Her wide smile told us that the thousands of dollars of life altering equipment just beginning to help her hear and understand sounds were not on her mind that day. The melody of water splashing and kids squealing as they swooshed down slides were sweet new sounds. She was a child in summer.
Another little person is prone to kidney infection, and her exposed bladder kept her from walking beyond knee deep in the water. Un-phased by her limitations, she spent the day sloshing in a bubbling fountain. Drippy ice cream in hand, she was a child in summer.
Finally, the oldest, a young teen with spina bifida, was rolled into the park in her wheelchair by her mother. Despite her challenges, a plastic wheelchair and a life vest enabled her to spend the day plunged happily in the pool. Feeling cool water on her legs, she was a teenager in summer.
Their stories bring easy tears, with limits and challenges shaping their pasts. Their orphanage years not just institutional and without parents, but surgery filled and soundless. Their battles far from over, the reasons to keep them away from a water park were many. On the other hand, the reasons TO linger were many as well. God performed countless miracles to change the course of their lives. And seeing them all together reminded us that we were in the presence of His sacred work, His love stories splashing around in swimsuits.
I used to see kids like ours and feel sorry for them. Though I still ache for pain endured and struggles to come, now I see the simple happiness’s of childhood radiating from them. They teach me again how to rejoice and be glad in a summer day. These resilient fighters have fought for joy soaked days. With the care of medical specialists, and the love of families, they’re free to uncover new worlds of wonders.
And what would God have us do with these redeemed lives? Splash in His water and soak in His sun, their joy shining stories of His lavish love for all who took moments to watch our noticeable group.
Part of turning corners with a special needs child is ME getting over ME. My daughter’s limitations once consumed me. I didn’t see her as just a child, with childhood days precious sand slipping through our fingers. But then I woke up to the wonder of her, and began to finally SEE her as fearfully and wonderfully made, outside and in between all things medical. Awed by her strength, and falling more in love with her laugh, I don’t want to stand in her way. I don’t want to spend so much time anxious about the next doctor’s appointment that I miss our appointment-less today. She can’t be submerged in a pool, but she can splash in puddles.
We as four mommas of medical needs kids have stepped well past our limits. We are relying on good health insurance, medical expertise, therapists and our limitless Lord. We must be wise in our care for them, but also must let the childhood that they fight so hard for, be theirs. Some days they need to float down lazy rivers and sit on beach towels snacking on chips and salsa, unburdened with knowledge of procedures to come. I don’t want to see our precious ones and see limits, missing out on fun, personality filled kids. I want to know that dance music makes them wiggle and that they prefer no pepperoni on their pizza.
Unaffected by each other’s wheelchair, cast, cochlear implants or limitations, on that day, they were just friends in summer with water to splash in. Unaware of the beautiful miracles they are, they just giggled and licked ice cream from a stick like it was their job. And we, the four mommas with lots in common, smiled and did some splashing of our own.