In February 2010, our family had the opportunity to provide respite care for a 15 year-old boy with arthrogryposis for several weeks.
When we first learned that this family was seeking respite care for their son, we were hesitant. After all, this young man was significantly older than the rest of the children in our home and, although Richard and I had both worked extensively with teenagers, we had never parented one! We were, however, very familiar with his special needs (Evan also has arthrogryposis) and we felt strongly that we should open our hearts and our home to this young man.
In some cases, an age discrepancy such as this might be detrimental, but in this case it was a benefit and a blessing to all involved.
In this young man's adoptive family, he was the oldest child in the home by several months, though physically, socially, academically and emotionally he was much younger than his actual age. His brother (just a few months younger than him) however, was socially, emotionally, physically and academically on target for his age. It became obvious to us after just a few days, that this young man struggled greatly with feelings of inferiority stemming from this discrepancy. The relationship between brothers was strained, at best, leaving this young man feeling very insecure.
Shortly after we welcomed this young man into our home we began to notice a significant change in his confidence and feelings of self-worth. He was once again the oldest child in the home, but this time he was playing the role of older brother to many, much younger brothers and sisters who looked up to and admired him. He could do things that these little people were not yet capable of doing. The kids adored him and his confidence soared.
He was also a wonderful help to Richard and I. Each night he volunteered to do the dishes, he read to the kids, and helped Richard shovel snow from the walkways. He was well-mannered and gracious. We felt like we had won the teenager lottery! In short, he was a gem and such a blessed addition to our family and we were sure to let him know. It did not take him long to learn that he was a valued member of our family. Again, his confidence soared.
In the short time that we were blessed to have this young man in our home we watched him thrive and grow. We saw him transform as he gained confidence and began to recognize his great worth and his limitless potential.
It was so hard to see him go, we loved him deeply and miss him dearly, but we were truly blessed to have the opportunity to have him in our lives, even for a short time.
Sometimes disrupting birth order or adopting a child significantly older than the other children in your home can be detrimental. Most of the time, it is an unimaginable blessing.