The Phoenix we know and love!
Here in Norway the state offers something called avlastning, which translates literally as "relief". All Norwegians have a right to avlastning but families with a special needs child are greatly encouraged to take advantage of it. The topic is brought up every time Phoenix goes for a check-up, Have you started with avlastning? We have always been hesitant about it; we never felt like we NEEDED it and I think we were somewhat offended by the thought of "relief" from our child. We love Phoenix, enjoy spending time with him and he is our responsibility! And I even felt like they were saying that we don´t spend enough time with the other kids because Phoenix demands so much attention, like he´s just work or something. While those were assumptions, I still feel parts of those assumptions are true, that there is some internal change that must take place in Norway´s attitude towards the disabled.
At our most recent "early intervention" meeting we were again encouraged to consider avlastning. Our response was that we haven´t taken advantage of it because we don´t know anyone that fit our criteria. Soon after that meeting one of the people attending offered to be our "reliever". She has a husband and two young girls and a cat and she was already excited about taking Phoenix snowmobiling at their cabin...and that is when my attitude toward "being relieved of Phoenix" changed.
I am choosing to see avlastning as awareness. Of course it is AWESOME for Phoenix to be the little brother and get tons of attention and do things he loves like snowmobiling. And it was nice to just have the two younger kids and more one-on-one time with Rio. But what excites me the most is the impact that Phoenix will have on this family. That two adults and two young girls will see a person with special needs as an individual who deserves respect and dignity. That someday when someone uses the word "retard" or makes fun of the disabled kid they will stand up for that individual, because they knew Phoenix, because he was a part of their lives and they liked having him around. It might sound strange, but I´ve always had this feeling that I need to SHARE Phoenix with the world. I need to share him because people need to be EXPOSED to him, to people different from themselves, to learn from him and to be stretched by him.
So we shared Phoenix with a wonderful family this weekend; moreover, we shared our dream of a world where all people are treated with respect and dignity.