Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent
When I was pregnant with my first child, Hailey, I didn’t have dreams of her growing up to be a doctor, teacher, or astronaut. My dreams and hopes for her were that she grow up to be kind, especially to those that are often overlooked: the elderly, the homeless, and those with special needs. Little did I know that in a few short years she would be the big sister to a sister and brother with special needs and that kindness would be put to the test.
Hailey and her needs often have to take the backseat to the needs of her siblings. She has missed Girl Scout meetings because her sister was sick and I was the only parent at home. I haven’t been able to help in her classroom as often as other parents because I am shuffling her brother to therapies. She has every right to be frustrated with what life has thrown at her, but instead she has developed this incredible sense of compassion. She is her brother’s translator and teacher, and her sister’s best nurse, but her compassion and kindness doesn’t stop there.
As I stand in my kitchen typing this, I am overwhelmed by the smell of soil and tomato plants. We have this beautiful gardener window in our kitchen that typically houses a few potted plants, but for the past two springs it has been taken over by seedlings for a vegetable garden. Hailey’s garden.
Last spring, Hailey asked if she could grow food for the homeless people in our town. I reluctantly agreed. Gardening is hard work for an adult, I was sure that at six years old the work would be too much and she would give up. But she did it. The first month of spring she spent picking rocks from the garden. Hours were spent picking buckets of rocks from the soil and carrying them to the woods behind the house. Once the soil was ready, she did all the planing, watering, weeding, and harvesting.
Each week, Hailey would harvest the food, clean it, and pack it up. She would tell me where to drive because she knew where to find people that needed help. Each time she approached someone new, she would introduce herself and ask for their name. She remembered each person and address them by name when we saw them again. They became her friends. At the end of the summer she had made over a dozen deliveries of tomatoes, carrots, peppers, spinach, onions, cucumbers, peas, and beans.
As wonderful as it was for her to help so many last year, I didn’t want to push her into doing the garden again this year if she didn’t want to. Around the middle of March, Hailey and I were walking through Target when Hailey reminded me that we needed to pick up seeds. I asked if she was sure she had the time for it this year because of playing with friends and Girl Scout field trips. She smiled and said “I will make time. This is more important.”
In that moment, I realized my dreams for my daughter have been fulfilled.
Miranda is a Navy wife and mother to three kids: Hailey, Josie and Teague. All three have a swallowing disorder, Teague has ASD and Josie has Chiari. Miranda is the VP of Community Outreach for the Military Special Needs Network. You can contact her at MirandaFort@MilitarySpecialNeedsNetwork.com
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