Happy 17th Birthday Ryan!

*Article appeared in our November 2010 newsletter.

By: Tom and Susan Bear

Over the weekend, our middle son – Tyler was given a school Health assignment of bringing home a computerized baby and caring for this mechanical baby’s need.  Latrisha, as he named her, provided a pretty regular schedule for our son, Tyler. In fact, he got the computer program routine down so well that by supper on Sunday night, as Tyler grabbed his “baby for the weekend? to feed her, he stated, “This will take exactly six minutes.”

This same weekend, we celebrated Ryan’s seventeenth birthday. With LaTrisha in our house and the celebration of Ryan’s life happening at the same time, Susan and I couldn’t help but reflect on each of our kids’ early years.

So at supper, with our now “expert father? son, Tyler, feeding his “baby”, Lauren, our youngest child, asked how long it took us to feed them as babies. Without hesitation, Susan and I focused our response on Ryan and said, “It took us at least one to two hours to feed Ryan as a baby and then we held our breath and prayed that some of what he digested stayed in and didn’t end up as projectile across our family room carpet.”

Both kids were surprised but interested. We explained that Ryan had a cleft palate as a baby and reflux. This double whammy meant Ryan simply didn’t have interest in eating. As new parents, we worked around the clock to mix, measure, feed, clean-up, and then wait a couple of hours to repeat. The realty of what we as parents faced with Ryan’s early care began to have impact on both Tyler and Lauren.

We have been fortunate as parents that Tyler and Lauren have grown up with great empathy toward Ryan. They are caring siblings and are physically distressed when Ryan faces any illness. But this weekend, the reality of what it means to actually care for Ryan seemed to seep into both of their lives. All because of a mechanical–computerized baby?

For seventeen years, Ryan has had impact on the lives of others. As we all watch our special needs children, I’m confident we can all say the same thing. These kids are magical. But at the same time, they are a significant responsibility. They drain our minds and energy. As parents, we get few breaks. But this weekend, we (Susan and I) got something a little different. We got understanding from our two other kids. Thanks LaTrisha and Happy Birthday Ryan.

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