6 Lessons I Learned From Having A Sibling With Special Needs

6 Lessons I Learned From Having A Sibling With Special Needs

Whoever said that life is like a box of chocolates -- he knew what he was talking about.
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Meet Jack:

He’s outgoing and enthusiastic. He likes Netflix, as most Americans do. He indulges frequently in peanut butter -- reduced fat, if we’re getting into the particulars (but only because it has more sugar). He cheers for his school’s football team so passionately, he might as well be the mascot (although his position as assistant team manager will suffice). He’s well known around town -- for example, workers at our local McAlister’s Deli know his order by heart, and if it's a Tuesday night and the chocolate milk is running low, they'll hide one for him in the back. He also happens to be missing some genes on his seventh chromosome -- a genetic disorder known more commonly as Williams Syndrome, which affects roughly one in 10,000 people worldwide. It’s this last characteristic of my brother that rocked my and my family’s world when the diagnosis was made.

Having a sibling with special needs comes with its fair share of ups and downs, but surprisingly, more of the former. One of the many ups is that my brother’s taught me a lot. Here are six lessons I’ve learned from having a sibling with special needs.

1. You can’t plan your life and expect it to play out in that way.

Jack wasn’t diagnosed with Williams Syndrome until he was three years old. That means that for three years my family was imagining him growing up just like every other kid -- learning to drive, sneaking out to parties, heading off to college, you know the drill. That was a whole three years before the doctors dropped the G-bomb -- genetic disorder. Nonetheless, my parents took the news with stride, and life’s worked out in so many amazing and confusing and wonderful ways we had never before imagined.

2. Just because it's said, doesn't mean it's so.

Just like you can’t expect your life to go as you plan, you also can’t take certain news as fate. Just because an authority gives his or her word on a matter, doesn’t mean it’s correct. When Jack was younger, physical and occupational therapists predicted trouble ahead. And even at the time, his lack of ability to reasonably perceive depth made him terrified just to step off of a street curb. Despite these predictions, Jack’s developed a taste for action and adventure, including basketball, bike riding, and even cliff rappelling, as the opportunity has presented itself.

3. You share a lot more than just a last name.

When your sibling struggles in ways that many don’t, you become much more emotionally attached to his or her journey. You sympathize with his or her struggles, and you celebrate exuberantly with his or her successes. You share perspectives, as he or she shows you life with new eyes and appreciation for new things. You also share a bond that is stronger than any you’ve shared with anyone else. When we were younger, Jack and I would put our hands together in the shape of a heart, and then pinch our fingers down to make an infinity sign, saying “I love you times infinity.” Even though he no longer does this, being seventeen and "too cool for school," I know from his genuine and energetic greeting every time we get on FaceTime that we’re just as tight as we’ve always been.

4. You have to be the bigger person, even when you don’t want to be.

Growing up, whenever kids gave my brother a hard time, every bone in my body wanted to rip them a new one. I despised them, not understanding how people could be so heartless. As I grew up, I realized that people act in certain ways for various reasons, and although a certain comment or action might be unjustified, fighting fire with fire isn’t the way to make the world a better place. People may disappoint you in life, but when you stand tall and swallow your pride, you’re bound to come out on top.

5. Disabled does not mean incapable.

There are many things my brother struggles with due to his disorder, but hey, doesn’t everybody struggle with at least a thing or two? While there are certain things Jack struggles with, there are so many more that he excels at. He’s a pro at networking, thanks to his outgoing and cheerful demeanor. And when he was younger, there was no Transformers product he couldn’t transform, despite the unsuccessful attempts of everyone else in the family. And now, he is on track to becoming an Eagle Scout. Jack has obstacles, but to those, he says, “Challenge accepted.”

6. There is a God, and God is great.

Some people might think that a diagnosis of a genetic disorder would erase one’s faith on the spot. After all, how could a God call himself great and loving after giving so sparingly and unjustly to one of his creations? But it’s not like that at all. When you have a sibling with special needs, you focus in a little better on what actually matters. Rather than feeling like you’ve been thrown a curse, you realize you have been granted a huge blessing, one that presents itself in the form of countless little blessings. For me, they’re the mercilessly tight hugs I receive each time I come home from school. They’re the way my brother sits down beside me when I’m upset and gently tells me to “turn that frown upside down”. They’re the unnecessarily but wonderfully excessive introductions to strangers: “Hi, I’m Jack Davis, a member of [Boy Scout] Troop 72 at your service.” God may have thrown us a curveball when he gave us Jack, but I can speak for my parents and myself when I say we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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