A close friend of mine has a child with physical disabilities who uses a wheelchair. Yet despite the ongoing accommodations the family must make, a guest in their home doesn't notice the child's limitations. The focus is always on the child's considerable intelligence and assets, which are highlighted. Recently while interacting with their child in another setting, I was shocked to encounter the full weight of the child's physical limitations. Truly, this family has created a home in the deepest sense of the word, which provides their child with a refuge from the limiting experiences it faces out in the world.

I was shocked to encounter the full weight of the child's physical limitationsThis family's model is one we must all seek to emulate in the home we provide for our children, a home that is a refuge, where a child can escape from the relentless onslaught of limiting and confidence-destroying experiences it will continually face in the world as an inescapable part of the process known formally as gaining an education, or colloquially, growing up.

As a child I believed I sang very well, and this assumption was never threatened until I auditioned for my junior high-school choir. After that audition, I have never auditioned for another singing role, nor do I ever intend to. I learned that day that I was not "a singer." The audition narrowed my self-concept, and caused me to see myself as more limited than I had previously believed myself to be. Yet in the safety of grandmother's home, the singer still within me dared to emerge, and I gave spontaneous performances to my grandmother and great-aunt, who never let on with the slightest word or gesture that these performances were anything less than Broadway quality. At school, I was limited as a singer, but in my grandmother's home, I was free of those limitations. Their home was my refuge.

All of us have some sort of limitation. There are children who can't sit still, children who do not enjoy reading, children who are disorganized, children with learning disabilities, children struggling to understand basic concepts while their siblings race through advanced understandings. Some children run slowly or clumsily, some get picked last in team sports, or always drop the ball.

There are children with visible physical disabiitlies. Yet there are other children, who are deeply limited, deeply scarred, because there is no place to escape the relentless tsunami of criticism that continually threaten them. In my work as a therapist, I see that these children have disabilities that are not readily apparent but are much harder to detect and treat, because they are hidden deep within the recesses of their souls.

Our children are aware of their strengths and weaknesses the way they are aware of their own bodies, but they do not grant them the same importance that we do. They do not neccessarily see them as limitations that have the power to prevent them from recognizing their dreams. Whereas adults define themselves by who they are and what they can reasonably accomplish, children define themselves by their dreams.

As parents, we have a choice. We can choose to suspend our awareness of the hard realities of life, that slow runners do not become baseball stars, clumsy girls do not become ballerinas, in order to nurture our children's developing sense of self, and preserve their sense of being an unlimited soul, only defined by the power of its own dreams, for as long as possible.

We can choose to create a refuge for our childrenWe can choose to create a home that further reinforces the limiting experiences they receive in the world, a home that spotlights their shortcomings and the areas where they don't measure up, the type of home where criticism is freely and frequently dispensed; or we can choose to create a refuge for our children, a home where they can escape from the pressing confinement of their limits, a home where they don't need to measure up, because they are cherished for who they are, and for being part of our family.

As parents, our choice is not dependant upon the type or severity of our children's limitations. On the contrary, frequently, the parents of those with the most severe limitations create the best refuges, like my friend has created for her child. The choice then is not dependant upon our children. Rather the choice depends purely on us.