Why I Stop Myself From Defending My Special-Needs Child.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
You really want to speak up, because, you're a mama bear (or papa bear). It's so hard to let them stand on their own when you've spent so much time advocating for them, defending them, and fighting for them. But there's a time and place to stay quiet and let them stand.

This is a guest post by our good friend, Courtney Westlake. She is the author of A Different Beautiful. She lives in Illinois with her husband Evan and two children, Connor and Brenna. After Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder, Courtney began chronicling family life and experiences raising a child with physical differences and special needs on her blog. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

I wanted to insert myself into the conversation happening a few feet away from me, to explain and to defend, but I held back. I craned my neck a bit, waiting to hear what my children would say to the little girl who had just asked about my daughter’s red, peeling skin.

“She has a skin addition,” my son, Connor, informed her, and I had to hide my smile over his error, as he obviously meant “skin condition.” But then, as I thought about it a little more, skin addition is pretty accurate too – after all, my daughter Brenna has a rare genetic disorder called Harlequin Ichthyosis that means her skin has difficulty maintaining her body temperature and fighting off bacteria, and it produces 10 times too fast.

“Yeah!” Brenna chimed into the discussion.

“Oh,” said the little girl, still watching Brenna. And then she all but shrugged, like that explanation was good enough for her, and continued playing next to my kids.

I could have offered more information. I could have explained that was how Brenna was born, that she has really dry skin, that she has to wear lotion that makes her a little shiny, that this was how God created her.

But if I had jumped into the conversation, would I have conveyed something else? Would I have made the little girl feel badly for asking, would I have attracted unwanted attention for Brenna, would I have placed a shield in front of my daughter when she didn’t need it?

Would I have offered defense to my daughter instead of assurance about who she is and how she was created?
One of my greatest motherly desires is to instill autonomy, self-respect, and strength within my children, so that they can fly out into the world with responsibility and confidence and a deep sense of who they are as beautiful and unique people created by one very awesome God. And when it comes to Brenna, who faces the world with such physical differences, I find myself struggling with the process of stepping back – very reluctant but well-intentioned – so that my girl can soar rather than be hidden under my wings.

Would I have offered defense to my daughter instead of assurance about who she is and how she was created?

I know my daughter will face all kinds of public reaction to her skin differences, whether I am there or not, as people tend to point, stare, and ask questions about her appearance and condition wherever we go. So I’m grappling with giving her what often feels like less advocacy, but what I hope will be the best kind of gift: the opportunity to answer for herself. The opportunity to explore what grace looks like offered to others who are ignorant about her condition, and the opportunity to use her own words to explain how God made her.

So even though she is only five, I pray that instead of teaching her how she should feel, I can equip her with encouragement and support and most of all, a true identity in Christ, as she steps out into this big world.

As her mother, my story feels very different than hers. My story often feels more protective and defensive. And I am very aware that many experiences are much harder on me than on her because of this. What Brenna will feel as the object of stares and comments will be very different than what I feel as her mother… and I hope that we can both support each other in every new situation and season of life as we strive for the kind of grace-filled advocacy found in living out God’s purpose for our lives.

A few months ago, Brenna came home sharing about a new little boy who had just joined her preschool class. He had, she told us, pointed at her and said “your face is red!”

“What did you say?” we asked her.

“I said, ‘yes’,” she nodded firmly, confidently.

No shame. No embarrassment. No offense. Just an observation, and an affirmation: Yes, that’s how I look. And with that confident one-word answer, my daughter showed me how to hold tight to the assurance of our Father’s life-giving love for us, as we have all been formed to uniquely and perfectly in his image.

Are you raising a child with special needs? Have you had to fight the urge to jump in on their behalf? Share your story with us in the comment section below.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.