YOUR STORY

Left Behind

Raising a Child who is Physically and Mentally Behind their Siblings
13 March, 2019 | Shaun Smith
  • Left Behind

“As I laid my 2yo son down to bed, time seemed to come to a crawl. With only the moonlight to enhance our view, I slowly stroked his hair as he laid in his crib waiting for sleep to entrap him for the evening. While softly rubbing his cheeks, he gazed into my eyes and deep into my soul and it felt like we were frozen in the moment. In that instant I saw myself through his eyes, asking me to love him like I do his sisters, to be patient with his shortcomings, to show him the attention that his twin sister seems to steal from him and to help guide him in becoming the respectful, smart, strong and loving young man he’s destined to be.”

As a father of 3, and like many fathers of multiple children I try to orchestrate my attention equally amongst all of my kids. Yet as hard as I try, that balance hardly ever equals out to a perfect 33.3% per child. And it is especially hard when one of your children (my 2-year-old son in this case) is behind his siblings, both mentally and physically. 

From the beginning my son has had it harder than his twin sister. From birth he was already underweight, had low blood sugar and wouldn’t take his formula or nurse which all led him to spending 10 days in the NICU. From that point and to this day, he’s been “behind”. His speech, height, weight, motor skills and vocabulary are all lagging for a child of his age.

Of course, all of this is intensified because his twin sister is off the charts… ahead of the curve in every previously listed category. As parents, my wife and I had to finally admit to ourselves that we needed help with his development as to not let him fall further behind. 

First it was physical therapy to help with his crawling, then his walking and strength and then his fine motor skills. As he has now graduated past the physical we are now deep into his speech and mental therapy and development. He is seen twice a month by a Speech Language Pathologist. To say his SPL has been an angel in disguise would be an understatement. Without her I don’t know where he’d be with his speech and language development. Along with my wife working extra hard with him and his monthly therapy his speech has drastically improved.

On the day he turned two, he said for the first time what sounded very much like “love you dada.” It wasn’t crystal clear, but it was a great present for him to give my wife and I on HIS birthday. On that day we realized all his therapy and my wife’s hard work was finally paying off.

I don’t know when he’ll be finished with his monthly speech therapy or when he’ll be caught up for his age, or at least caught up according to all the charts and pediatricians, but I do know this, my son has tested me in a way that I never dreamed I could be tested as a parent. Emotionally, physically and spiritually, my little boy through no fault of his own has pushed me to the edge and back.

I’ve struggled caring for him when he was a little baby because he was an intense screamer, especially at night. I’ve had thoughts and feelings about my own son that scarred me mentally when he was just a little baby. Thoughts I can never take back. Trying to care for him when he was an infant made me question if I could be the father he really needed me to be. In those first 2 years of his life my work suffered, my relationship with my wife was up and down, and my whole life was just a giant roller-coaster of emotions.

Giving him the extra attention, he needed, the extra compassion and patience he required, was and still is hard for me. I love my boy with all my heart and soul and I’d die for him, but it wasn’t always so.

My son and I have been on a spectacularly enlightening journey together these past 29 months and because of my early struggles I am more prepared for the journey ahead. I’m finally fully aware of the sacrifices and patience I need to have with him to help him achieve all that he can. The past few months have become a little easier, but I know it’ll never be a cakewalk. He will always need more support, patience and love from me and I understand that now. My son will be a great man one day and I’m so grateful that I get to be the father he needs to show him the way.

 


About The author

Shaun was born in Atlanta GA but currently live in Memphis TN. He graduated with BA in Sports Management and Business from the University of Memphis in 2005. He's been in banking for 8 years but started in sales with a health club. He lives in a nice quiet suburb outside Memphis with his 3 children (boy/girl 2yo twins and a very precocious 5yo girl) and wife of 9 years. He loves sports, fitness and super-hero movies!


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