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To Love and Be Loved.

Rylie and Kaitlyn Rylie and her friend, Kaitlyn

"To love and be loved" is a core desire of every human being. In today's post, blogger Katie Mulder shares how this prayer and desire for her daughter have been met through friendship found in an inclusive classroom.

AS LONG AS HE OR SHE IS HEALTHY. That’s all we want. It is the mantra of every parent-to-be. We don’t care whether it’s boy or girl, we just want him or her to be healthy.

Our entire vocabulary shifted when Rylie Joy turned 20-months. She was healthy, yes, but she was not typical. She was functional, yes, but she was not thriving. She was perfectly fine, but she wasn’t. Was she healthy?

My first concerns were school and independence and long-term capacity for speech and learning. Seven years into this journey, I find that my prayers have changed. I can do therapy drills and we can alter medications. We can drive to appointments and we can monitor food intake. There is actually so much that can be done to assist the health of our children.

What I cannot do is make another child love my child, and it is the ache of my heart for her to be safe outside the farm gates. Somewhere after the grief of diagnosis and the passion of therapy to increase quality of life, my priorities changed from wanting better test results to knowing her heart was safe.

As long as she is loved. Please let her be known and be loved.

Deep down- beyond the academic stability, financial security, somewhere between health and true love and a safe apartment- we want our children to be liked and loved in community. To have friendships that go deep and live long. To be with someone on the playground slides and at the midnight college study sessions. We know from experience that friendships are hard and fickle and life-saving. And while we hope they pass the math test you’ve been working on for weeks, what we really want is for them to be invited to sit with someone at lunch. This life, whether typical or extreme, cannot be lived alone.

Imagine my joy to find a church willing to help Ry through the ever-changing structure of Sunday school, shuttling her out when the music is too loud, providing an adult-buddy when necessary, making the Message accessible to her on her level.

Imagine my excitement to find a school that welcomed Ry with open arms, allowing for regular sensory breaks and extra test-taking time, including her in a typical classroom instead of making her world smaller in a separate classroom.

Imagine my fear, watching her at the end-of-year party, standing awkwardly on the carpet with her craft when everyone was told to grab a partner. Feel my relief as sweet Kaitlyn ran over without prompting and grabbed Ry’s hands. “Rylie,” she whispered. “Be my partner?”

“Yes,” I answered silently. “Yes.”

So much of Rylie’s school day is a mystery to me. Her lack of language prevents the daily conversations that are common at most dinner tables: who did you sit next to at lunch? What songs did you sing? How did that glue get all over your shirt? I always see the big picture, but the cracks of details are usually empty. Is there one, just one, who seeks out my girl? Will someone walk with her despite her differences? Will choose her when I am not there?

Yes. Yes, indeed.

It will change over the years, no doubt, as it should. Children grow and personalities emerge and ebb and flow. But I am comforted by the sweet hearts of children… the quiet ones who do not make the news… the ones who include and love because it is simple:

We want to love and be loved.

By Katie Mulder, blogger at texasnorth.com. TexasNorth is a little farm in Michigan home to 25 chickens, 35 longhorn cattle, 1 dog, 3 barn cats, a fabulous office-man-by-day-farmer-by-night husband, and 3 ridiculously cute children. Katie has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. She believes in Sunday school and miracles and apple pie.