~~Introducing~~Family Spotlight, a new feature of the newsletter, where we will learn about a different family each month to help us get to know each other. Please let me know if your family would like join in the fun!
For January, please meet the Ianieri's! We can't thank them enough for sharing their insights and family strengths. There are many wonderful points... not only about life with a differently-abled child, but about life, life! For everyone! Please read on;)
1) Tell us a little about your family, who is it composed of, extended members living there, pets, etc.
Our family consists of 6 humans and 3 cats. Mom and Dad are Kris and Jim, the kids are Erica (11), Maggie (9), Aldo (4) and Ramona (5 mo.) The cats are Greyg, Blacky and Meeps. Erica and Maggie live mostly with their dad (from a previous relationship) so on a day to day basis, Aldo is usually the big brother.
While they don't live with us, Aldo's grandparents (on both sides) are a big part of his life almost every day.
2) Can you share a family value that is important to you and how the value is expressed?
Aldo has really inspired some strong feelings about this question. There are a lot of values that we hold dear, and having a child like Aldo certainly makes us think about these values more than we would have if we didn't. I have to say that individuality is the one value that is most important, or at least most relevant to this conversation...
Aldo has taught us that a person's value is not so much in what they can do or contribute, but in who they are. It’s hard sometimes not to compare your kids to each other, especially when their developmental levels vary drastically. We learned early on that Aldo would not follow the same path as our other children, but that he would show us who he is in other ways.
I think this taught us all to be even more patient and forgiving with each other, because we realize that we are all so wonderfully different, and we can all learn something unique from one another when we strive to appreciate each other's individuality.
3) What kinds of things do you do together as a family for fun?
Our family loves music. We love to listen to music and sing and dance together. Some form of musical enjoyment happens on a daily basis in our house. Everyone loves something different, but Aldo tends to make us listen to his picks most of the time. He is a big fan of K-Pop and he also really loves Lindsey Stirling. We call her "Violin Girl" and he even has a sign for her. We also create music together. Jim and I play guitar and ukulele and we play and sing for Aldo and Mo a lot.
4) Are there any special arrangements or considerations needed to make sure your OSB student is included in the fun safely and securely?
Certainly. We recently were given a beautiful gift from our community. Our local Rotary organization made a financial contribution for Aldo to have a bedroom built on the first floor of our home since he is unable to get up and down the stairs safely. He now has his own room and bathroom off the kitchen (his second favorite room in the house)!
5) What are you most proud of, about your family, about your OSB student?
Aldo has the uncanny ability to bounce back from anything. He has been through A LOT. He has had many difficult hospitalizations, and even made it through cancer treatments and the removal of his kidney, all without losing his spirit. He is truly a special child, and we could not be more proud of him. He is so brave, and such a funny, sweet boy.
I think as a family we have stayed positive, and I am really proud of that. Jim and I strongly believe that Aldo needs our family to be together and strong for him to live his best life. As a family we need that too. We also believe that we (as parents) are the backbone of our family, and we work really hard to support and be there for each other.
Being honest, we have experienced some really difficult times since Aldo has joined our family, but I am proud of the fact that we have come through them with love and continue to face challenges with hope.
6) Do you have any special tricks for coping with the challenges of modern family life?
Ha! I don't know about tricks but I think being flexible is what gets us through the challenging times. Having firm expectations often leads to disappointments, especially with a differently-abled child.
We try to manage our other kid's expectations (and our own) by reminding them all the time that things can change at a moment's notice, and it’s easier to ride the tide than try to control it.
7) Anything else you would like to share with other OSB parents?
I think what has gotten our family through the difficult times more than anything has been our focus on our relationships. Jim and I work really hard on our relationship because we need each other to lean on. I know not all families have a traditional parenting situation, but every parent needs someone to lean on. Whether it’s a spouse or a partner, or even a close friend, it’s always OK to accept support.
We also need things to look forward to. As parents, you need to take time for yourselves. Sometimes we focus so much on making sure our kids have what they need, we forget ourselves and each other. I know that we are always happier and better able to meet challenges when we have taken time to recharge, even if it’s just going to a movie.
Thank you again to the Ianieri's, for sharing their thoughts and experiences!