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Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children

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Thank You, Peter

By Katherine Bruening

    I was frustrated. My eleven year-old brother simply could not understand that fifteen plus three was eighteen, not two. While my frustration turned to anger, I realized we both needed a break, so we played our favorite game. The rules were simple: first one to laugh lost. It was easy playing with Peter. He always lost. I winked at Peter and he burst into laughter. When he laughed, I could not help but wonder how he was able to find such effortless delight despite the daily harassment and challenges he faces because of his Down syndrome. If I had to endure one day of his life, I doubt I would be able to find such joy. As soon as Peter laughed, I did too. With his laugh, I was able to rid myself of my anger and frustration; my patience and perspective returned.
    Eleven years ago I sat on the hospital bed, disappointed that my parents had ignored my simple request to have a sister; they explained to me that Peter would never be the same as my other two brothers. He would never talk as well, run as fast, grow as tall, understand as easily, or be treated as fairly as others would. Not quite understanding what my parents were telling me, my mother gently took my hand and looked at me intently. She told me that life would be much harder for Peter, that people are going to think he is strange, and that he will not always feel accepted. She explained that it was my job to be his big sister, to make him feel accepted at home, and to give him extra love. This would be a job for all of us. Though I was still unaware of what was to come, it was at that moment I set aside some special love love designated only for my special brother.
    As I became older I grew more aware of my own disabilities and shortcomings. Being home schooled through the third grade, I did not possess all the social skills that other children my age had acquired throughout their years together at a mainstream school. But I was able to adapt and be accepted. Peter was not as fortunate as I. As Peter grew up, his disabilities became increasingly apparent, and the love I reserved for him proved to be more vital that I ever could have imagined. All that my parents predicted about my precious brother became a reality. When Peter started school, mainstream children did not understand why Peter acted and looked so different from them, and as a result, it was not uncommon for Peter to be name-called and taunted. Unlike me, however, he is still not able to communicate his thoughts and feelings and his pains and joys to others. Yet, Peter was and is able to continue through these moments with a smile.
    Today I often wonder how Peter views his life and if he has any idea how much he has impacted mine. It is natural for one to have moments of frustration or even anger. I know I that I do. But Peter, my younger brother, has shown me how to accept not only my shortcomings but also my abilities. Furthermore, he has shown me patience: patience for others as they struggle to overcome their limitations as well as patience for myself as I struggle.
I am human; I get frustrated, angry, and exasperated. But because of Peter I have learned how to be a more loving sister. I have learned how to be more accepting and patient with myself and with others. Without my little brother I would not be the same person I am today his impact on my life has changed me forever. I am thankful everyday that I am fortunate enough to have such a wonderful person in my life.
 

Thank you, Peter.