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How Our Family Is Celebrating the Silver Linings During This Difficult Holiday Season

December is upon us and soon our family of five will be “home for the holidays.”  We’ll be focusing less on silver bells this year and more on silver linings.  For me, the biggest of these is how well our adult children are embracing the suck.

The younger two (age 21 and 24) are now residing at home while waiting for their normal lives to resume post-pandemic. Our son has severe cerebral palsy and needs lots of extra care. His younger sister generously stepped up to assist him during the pandemic. This provides relief to my husband and me and has also strengthened their bond as siblings.  It has truly made them appreciate each other in unique and meaningful ways. I try to stay out of their way and just let the magic happen. My heart soars when I hear them giggling, conversing and singing together, as she provides the support he normally requires from a professional health care provider. I remind myself this would not be happening if she were at college or he were at his intentional community living more independently. Silver linings, indeed.

Watching them interact this way reminds me of their childhood years, a simpler time when people weren’t getting sick and dying and forced to wear masks and stay quarantined from one another.  But it wasn’t all simple and easy, I know.  Our daughter grew angry and jealous at times watching her disabled brother get so much attention. And our son grew sad once his baby sister started driving and spending time with friends away from home on the weekends, which he couldn’t do. As they grew up, their lives seemed to blossom in completely different directions. They each were growing, but clearly not on the same vine any longer. This pandemic has brought them back together to flower and fuse their adult lives under our roof for a while. I know their older brother, due home shortly, will only enhance the bouquet.

He lives and works several hours away but returns soon to celebrate the holidays with us. He understands the need to test and quarantine upon arrival, and I am proud of his commitment to cooperation in order to keep his loved ones safe and healthy. It would be a lot easier to just pass on a visit home this year or put up a fuss about having to comply with family COVID rules for a brother at increased risk of infection. Instead, he’s putting forth great effort and will help us create great memories. More silver linings.

Hopefully, I’m not the only parent who feels this way this year. It’s been extraordinarily hard for adult children to respond to the challenges we’re all facing, but they’re doing it. Regardless of ability, they’re sacrificing typical growth experiences and doing what’s required to help contain COVID-19. As author Glennon Doyle says, they’re learning they can “do hard things.” And this learning will benefit them throughout their adult lives. It’s something parents often struggle to teach, in fact, as we rescue our children from failure and neglect to let go enough so real growth can happen. It’s another silver lining from this bountiful year.

As parents of young children, especially those with disabilities, we often get lost in our fears for the future. Living in the moment seems impossible. Worries are abundant. After all these years, though, I’m now watching our adult kids support each other and work to achieve their dreams. The best gift we can give them is to appreciate their efforts and let them bloom. They can do hard things. Even if we don’t know exactly what the future holds, we can stop worrying. At least for a little while.

As I deck the halls, prepare for our son’s homecoming, and admire my daughter helping her brother into his wheelchair, I’m reminded of all it takes this year to gather safely as a family — something we all took for granted just a short time ago. I am grateful that our children have grown into adults who put the needs of others ahead of their own, and who value their time together as much as their time apart. The bonds of family require constant tending, and we’re often so busy we don’t nurture these relationships enough to keep them strong and beautiful. Hopefully, this holiday season will allow us the flexibility to focus on each other instead of all the hoopla. To focus on the silver linings.

Image Credits: Kristin Burbank