Photo of Tegan

When I noticed Teagan’s picture in Holt International’s summer 2010 magazine, I was immediately drawn to his charming smile. We had three children already — two boys through birth, Braden, 10, and Rylan, 8, and adopted Addie Lou through Holt from Ethiopia in 2010 when she was 4 months old. We were not planning to have any more children, and had never considered adopting a child with significant special needs. Even so, I cut out Teagan’s picture and placed it on a memo board in our home so that we would remember to pray that this special little guy would find a family. For the next few months, that’s exactly what we did. However, I found myself thinking of him often and eventually began questioning if he was meant to be a part of our own family. It was not an easy decision. His diagnosis was overwhelming and we discovered that in all the years he had been in the care center, we were the first family to even request to review his file. We spent months talking and praying for wisdom about the decision before knowing that this was the right path for our family. There were so many unknowns regarding Teagan’s health, development and future, but we decided that having him as a part of our family was more important than living an easy, comfortable life. I remember my husband saying that the unknowns did not matter — that if he was truly our son, then we would figure it out and face the challenges together.

Teagan in Ethiopia — April 2010.

For Teagan, there never seemed to be any question that he was supposed to be a part of our family. As the nanny carried him down the stairs to meet us for the first time, he yelled out “Mommy! Daddy!” and went straight into my husband’s arms. He has been generous in his love for us since that day and never seemed to look back. That does not mean that this journey has been easy. Adding an older child with significant special needs to our family has been the hardest thing we have ever done and we are still a work in progress. When you begin the adoption process, you think it’s going to be about teaching and guiding your new child while supporting him through the transition into family life. You soon discover that the process is just as much about changing yourself. It’s easy to love when things in life are easy. It takes courage to make the decision that yes, I will welcome and love this child. But it also takes patience, purposefulness and endurance to wake up every day and be loving to that child. If you have a partner, you remind each other that the most challenging moments are temporary, and you learn to give yourself and each other grace in your mistakes. You keep loving. The true refinement happens when you go through the hard times and come out the other side — together, stronger and with true grace.

This July, it will be two years since Teagan came home. Teagan continues to make great strides in all areas of his development. He is now walking with the support of leg braces and a walker and can stand by himself for approximately ten seconds. He has learned how to climb stairs, use scissors, put on shoes and clothing and is beginning to speak in basic sentences. Teagan also has a wheelchair available for times when the distance is too far for him to walk. He recently completed a walk with his walker to raise money for clean water, and watching him cross the finish line was a moment that I will never forget.

Last summer, Teagan attended a treatment program where he received intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy, including aquatic therapy once a week. We also focused on physical therapy at home through fun activities such as swinging in the backyard, swimming in our neighbors’ pool, playing with siblings and friends and camping with our family. Teagan also attended vacation bible school with his siblings and grandmother as the teacher.

This year, Teagan attended kindergarten. He was in a small classroom where he received extra support, as well as physical, speech and occupational therapy. He absolutely loves school and is excited to go on the bus every morning. At this year’s open house, it was evident that Teagan was a local superstar. As we walked down the hall, everyone knew his name and shared how much they look forward to spending time with him during the school day. Teagan is included in all activities that the other children participate in. He even plays baseball and can be found rounding the bases — riding piggy-back on friends’ backs. He never even considers not trying to do something that other kids can do, and his positive attitude and determination seem to inspire everyone who has contact with him. Recently, the bus driver told us that she will not give up until Teagan walks onto her bus someday, instead of riding in his wheelchair.

Teagan continues to capture hearts and inspire others wherever he goes. Our entire community has rallied behind him and so many have been touched by his infectious smile, his story and his captivating personality. He is very sweet, extremely affectionate and loving. He has a great sense of humor — his dance moves and “air guitar” being particularly impressive — is super silly, and he loves to laugh. He has developed a healthy attachment to the rest of our family, easily becomes friends with other children and is usually the center of attention wherever we go. We call him “Super Teagan” and he loves to wear a superhero cape because of his ability to keep trying. We even threw him a super hero birthday party and all the guests came in superhero costumes to help celebrate his special life.

Being a part of Teagan’s life means getting to witness little miracles every day as he overcomes the challenges before him. That smile that reached out and grabbed me from the pages of the Holt magazine is now touching hearts and brightening our world. He is teaching us all about true strength, hope and the triumph of the human spirit.

 Amie Wagner | Honeoye Falls, NY

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