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In Their Own Strange Way, Kids Figure Things Out

, , , , , , , , | Related | February 12, 2023

CONTENT WARNING: Fatal Car Accident


My wife and I are raising my ten-year-old son, my eight-year-old niece, and my seven-year-old daughter. We adopted my niece more than a year ago. My sister was a single mother, and my niece, sister, and her boyfriend were in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. My sister and her boyfriend both died.

My niece survived but was paralyzed from her lower back down, and she had to come to terms with her mom’s death, adjust to living in our family, and learn how to live her new life in a wheelchair.

At first, we were worried about how our kids would react to their cousin living with us. She wasn’t close to us before; the reason we were adopting her was that she didn’t have anywhere else to go. Our kids had met her a few times before. Due to the hospital’s health crisis regulations at the time, the only visitors allowed in the hospital she was staying at were adults, and they really preferred that those adults were my wife and me. We tried to have the kids talk on Zoom, but they never really connected. My son in particular can be very resistant to any changes at home and was pretty upset already about the ways we were changing our house to make it more accessible.

We brought my niece home after a few months in the hospital, and as expected, my son wasn’t incredibly happy about this. He didn’t say anything to her face about it, but she could tell he wasn’t happy about her being there.

The next morning, I woke up at seven, and as I went into the kitchen to start making breakfast, I saw my niece’s wheelchair… but no niece in it. I heard strange noises coming from the living room, and I walked in to see my son with my niece sitting on his shoulders, my niece being very small for her age. They were both giggling and laughing and searching for something on the mantle above the fireplace.

I got my niece back into her wheelchair and asked what happened. All that they would tell me was that my niece’s glasses had somehow ended up on the mantel. My son was too short to see it from where he was standing, and my niece was too nearsighted to find her glasses without wearing them, so they were just doing their best to work together to find the glasses.

I was upset that my son had just picked her up and put her on his shoulders, and we had a long talk about safety, but I’m also incredibly relieved; it’s been six months, and my son, niece, and daughter are best friends. I asked my son what changed, and he just said that it was impossible to stay mad at his cousin when she’s such an amazing person.

Both of my kids are very patient and supportive of my niece’s trauma, anxiety, and physical disability, and my niece is incredibly loving and grateful in return.

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