I am thrilled to welcome Caroline McGraw of A Wish Come Clear as our first Guest Writer. As the Sister of someone with Special Needs, Caroline truly gets it. She understands why a Village is Home. I’ll be interviewing Caroline about what it’s like to have a Special Needs Sibling and that will be available March 9th so stay tuned! In the meantime, here is what Caroline has to share about the value of a Village for Special Needs Families.
What it Means to Be the Village
Though it’s true that my parents are my heroes, and that they’re primarily responsible for my brother Willie’s care, it’s also true that they’ve had support along the way. As a special-needs family, it can be all too easy to focus on feelings of frustration or exclusion. Today, however, I want to share with you the people and places wherein we’ve been accepted. These priceless connections kept us grounded when Willie’s behavioral challenges shook our foundations. These people have celebrated with us at every milestone, every small victory. As such, I’d like to say…
Thank you to the church I grew up in, for welcoming Willie with open arms. You offered flexibility and understanding when he’d speak up during the service, and when he needed to roam the hallways while everyone else was sitting down. Thank you for greeting him, praying for him, and including him in basketball games and potluck dinners. You made us feel like we could show up as we were, without needing to pretend that things were different.
Thank you to our extended family, who have been so patient with us and with Willie’s needs. You let us bring gluten-free foods to every gathering, and for letting Willie eat most of the vegetables on any given appetizer tray. You’ve stayed with him when my parents needed someone to help, and you’ve let him lead the prayers at mealtimes, which means so much to him. You’ve listened to him play the piano and encouraged him to keep learning and growing in what he loves. You’re proud of him, and it shows.
Thank you to my best friends, the ones who wouldn’t let me get away with hiding my family life from the world. As a teenager, I believed that I couldn’t invite you to our house. I was afraid that, if you saw my brother’s out-of-control behavior, you’d be out the door. But you wouldn’t let me get away with it. You encouraged me to host a sleepover. When I conceded, my fears came true: you saw a major outburst from my brother. I felt ashamed, so I told you that you could leave if you wanted to go. Instead, you sat with me, held me and told me you weren’t going anywhere.
Thank you to L’Arche, a remarkable organization wherein people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together. L’Arche taught me to dig for treasure in people, and appreciate the gifts that my brother has to offer the world. It taught me about letting go of my need for control, and the beauty that can be found by staying in the present moment.
Thank you to my husband, Jonathan. When we were engaged and I asked you if you’d be willing to share the responsibility for Willie’s care should the need arise, you agreed without hesitation. You’ve seen Willie at his best and worst, and you’ve treated him with dignity and kindess even when he struck at you, even when you had to help us restrain him. Willie has so much respect for you, and with good reason.
Thank you to my ninety-two-year-old grandmother-in-law, who prays for Willie every day. Each time I see you, you ask how Willie’s doing, and tells me, “Now honey, I don’t always remember his name, but I always do pray for him.”
Today, I challenge you: be a part of another family’s village. Be there for them when they need to talk. Encourage them when they’re feeling low. And most of all, never lose faith in what binds them together.
Who has been an essential part of your family’s village? Tell me in the comments!
Caroline McGraw is a would-be childhood paleontologist turned storyteller, digging for treasure in people with autism & intellectual disabilities (& empowering caregivers to do the same). Her younger brother, Willie, has autism, and she writes about finding meaning in your most challenging relationships at A Wish Come Clear. Her first book, Your Creed of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive) is a 60+ page guide for caregivers, free to all who elect to receive posts via email at A Wish Come Clear.