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Believe in Your Kids
Mom with a View

Believe in Your Kids

Despite any disability, we have the choice to lift our children up or bring them down.


When I was in college, I had a close friend named Val. It's been a while since then and Val and I lost touch long ago. But the lessons I learned from her shaped my life, my attitudes and my parenting.

Val was born with a malformed arm. There was a slight kink at the elbow and then it stopped -- no forearm, no hand, no fingers. The arm stopped but Val certainly didn't.

Not only was Val in law school with me but she played baseball and squash and acted and participated in many extracurricular activities. It never occurred to her she couldn't. And she was right. She was cheery and upbeat and popular.

And she told me an important story. Once, when she was backpacking through Europe, she met a young boy with a similar condition, but with a very different attitude.

Whereas Val's parents had always told her how special she was and that she could do anything, this boy's parents had treated him like an invalid. They gave him compassion and pity but no motivation, no sense of what was possible -- since they didn't believe anything was -- and no vision. This young man was wasting away on his couch, deprived of physical activity, like some heroine in an old English novel.

It was an extremely painful experience for Val. And a lesson for us all.

Everyone has challenges and they need to be acknowledged. There are certainly many occasions where we need to feel and exhibit compassion towards our children (and ourselves!) But not pity. Not defeat.

A more matter of fact acceptance of our physical and emotional realities. And a greater vision and belief in our potential.

It starts with us. If we communicate a "poor me" attitude to our children it's probably because we have one ourselves. It's probably because we don't believe in our own potential because we've given up.

If we don't always have perspective on how this hurts us personally, perhaps we recognize how it harms our children, how it quite literally stunts their growth.

It also reflects a lack of trust and belief in the Almighty. He created us this way so we must be "just right." And He believes our potential is boundless, the possibilities infinite. He believes in us -- and He didn't make a mistake in His creation, right? We need to believe as deeply in ourselves and in our children.

When infants and toddlers fall (I'm talking minor bumps and bruises here), there is often a delay between the fall and the tears, the event and the reaction. In the interim a careful observer will see the child looking to his or her parents for a cue. If we look aghast and horrified, the child knows something is wrong and will burst into tears. If we are smiling and encouraging, our child will smile also and resume play. Their attitude and response is a mirror of ours.

We have the choice to lift our children up or bring them down, to encourage appropriate coping techniques or to given in to a sense of despair, to believe in their God-given abilities and opportunities or to discourage even trying. Among the myriad of gifts the Almighty has given me was that long ago friendship with Val. And a vision of what is possible.

February 9, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Anonymous, December 8, 2011 11:51 PM

This is the best blog you have ever written! My 20 year old son has Asperger's Syndrome/high functioning autism. He struggles to do many things we neurotypical folks take for granted. However, my husband and I refuse to lower the bar. We encourage him to always do his best in all of his endeavors. He is prohibited from using his disability as a reason not to go forth and achieve.

(4) Margie, February 13, 2008 10:27 PM

Instill Confidence in your children

This is a great story of Val. Emunah, thanks for sharing!
I have twin faternal daughters and two sons. Each one of children went to different schools, based on their specific needs. Each child is unique and it's important to bring out their best abilities based on their strengths.

(3) Pesha Gordon, February 13, 2008 9:12 AM

It is the Jewish way to find Val and to thank her personally

This was a heartwarming article for all of us. To find Val and to thank her personally would be the Jewish way. We could all learn a lesson from this approach.

(2) Tony Mannon, February 12, 2008 11:33 AM

I can relate to this story first hand

My wife and I have a 13 year old daughter who is mentally challenged. Her birth was delayed by hospital staff because our doctor was not available. Our daughter was oxygen depraved as a result of waiting too long to do an emergency c-section. Our daughter was behind in all her milestones as a baby. She is in 8th grade now but is more like a 2nd grader according to testing conducted. Our daughter is oblivious to her condition. Every year toward the end of her school year teachers in the next grade fight over who will get to teach her next year. The Almighty gave us a very special girl. What I initially thought was a curse turned out to be a blessing in so many ways. Our daughter helps her teachers in that she bonds with other special needs students. She loves books and reads to fellow students. How ever the Almight selected us to parent such a wonderful soul is beyond my human comprehension but we are blessed and we are thankful.

Mrs. Braverman - you were blessed to have Val as friend. You were wise to share your inspirational story. Thank you. You made my day!

(1) esther, February 10, 2008 11:49 PM

how true.
my mother was born with a physical handicap, suffered from numerous medical difficulties, had cancer twice...
she never saw herself as lacking. and as children we believed she could do anything, and she could. nothing stood in her way, and she never used her circumstamces as an excuse. at my Mothers levaya, a few people mentioned that in the face of her handicaps, she persevered and achieved. I remember, exchanging surprised glances with my siblings. My mother never saw herself as handicapped, and neither did we. She was least "handicapped" person I ever knew, and took what she was given to grow, connect and transcend. i am priviledged to be her daugther, and have learned this lesson at such a young age.

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