Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

Our Land – Why Special Needs is Like Chlorophyll

It’s Wednesday!  Wednesdays equal Our Land! I am proud to feature another amazing voice in this Series which began here because you, my friends, were beyond wonderful. Today’s awesomeness is brought to you by my friend Tatum from Ain’t No Roller Coaster.  Tatum’s and my paths crossed through our mutual friend Kerry, who, as you may recall, launched this series with her post Broken People.  (thank you, Kerry – I’m so glad to have found you both!)

Tatum is one of the rare gems who has the ability to educate about special needs while being funny, introspective, deep, light, and genuine.  Each time I visit her site, I feel like I’m hanging out on a park bench with a mom who gets it.  All of it.  If you don’t already know her, get to.  You’ll be so glad that you did.

It’s Just The Way It Is

For the year end program, my four-year-old’s teachers choose one word to describe each child in the classroom.  The word they picked for Kellen is “Inquisitive,” because he always wants to know “why”…about everything.  Apparently he asks “why” even more than the rest of the three and four-year-old kids (something I’ve always suspected).  I’m pretty sure that that I answer 23, 568 questions a day.  Most of these questions are very random (I’m not sure what to do with all my knowledge about mud flaps).   When you answer a lot of random questions, you tend to come to random conclusions.

Do you want to know my latest random conclusion?

Special needs are a lot like chlorophyll. 

I warned you…random.  Seeing as I answer 164, 976 random questions a week, this logic makes sense to me, but I guess I better explain before everyone starts questioning my sanity.  (I’ve spent the vast majority of the last two years in isolation at home or in the hospital with my two-year old son, so questioning my sanity is viable.)  However, I really do think I can convince you that our loved ones with special needs are a lot like chlorophyll.

You remember chlorophyll from plant biology right?  I took Agronomy in college (because I heard it was easier than Biology…it wasn’t) and I remembered just enough to have this conversation:

Kellen:  Mommy why is the grass green?

Me:  Grass has a green substance in it called ‘chlorophyll’ and it makes the grass green.

Kellen:  Why is chlorophyll green?

Me:  It’s just the way it is.

Kellen:  It’s just the way it is?

Me:  Yep, it’s just the way it is.

Okay, truth be told, I had no idea why chlorophyll is green.  I just don’t like saying “I don’t know” because when I do, Kellen gasps, “What?  Are you not smart?”  My pride can only take that question so many times in a day, so sometimes I change it up and answer “It’s just the way it is.”

However, I also know that just behind inquisitive, his teachers were probably considering “persistent” as the other word to describe Kellen.  To prepare myself for when the question would inevitably come up again, I consulted my good friend Wikipedia.  It seems like a lot of smarty-pants four-year olds question why chlorophyll is green because Wikipedia has a complete section on this discussion.

To my utter shock and amazement, my answer was right!  Scientist don’t know why Chlorophyll is green.   The answer really is, “it’s just the way it is.”

First, let me back up and tell you what I didn’t remember about why chlorophyll is important.  Besides being what makes grass green, it also is the part of the plant that absorbs energy from the sun, a critical part of photosynthesis.  Without chlorophyll, there would be more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in our air.  However, some scientist don’t like that chlorophyll is green.  Of all possible colors, green is good at absorbing light, but there are other colors that could do it more efficiently.  Black chlorophyll would be the most efficient.  One scientist suggested that chlorophyll being green is a limitation of evolution. “Even if black leaves were better, evolution’s limitations can prevent species from climbing to the absolute highest peak on the fitness landscape.”  (In other’s words, “it’s just the way it is”.)

I have to admit, I was a little outraged by at this scientist’s suggestion that black chlorophyll could be better; if chlorophyll was black, our grass, trees and most plants would be… black.  Our vibrant world would become dark.  Instead, our environment is more beautiful because nature isn’t at its maximum efficiency.

Efficiency be damned, I want to be in the world of green chlorophyll.

That realization is why I believe special needs are a lot like chlorophyll.

Let me give you the example of my two-year-old son, Owen.  He was born at 24 weeks and had a complicated course that left him with brain damage.  In nature, he wouldn’t be considered very efficient.  He still needs oxygen at night and with colds, he does not eat (100% g-tube), does not walk (but will soon), he has only a handful of words and he has enough food allergies to overwhelm a gluten free, vegan, raw food chef.  No, he’s not at maximum efficiency, but like chlorophyll, he makes the air that I breathe so much better.  Also like chlorophyll, the same things that put him at less than peak efficiency, are what make him amazing.  He continues to thrive and add beauty to this world, not in spite of his disabilities, but because of them.

Sometimes we parents of special needs children can be a little like a four-year-old with our “why” questions.  I have wondered “why” many times.  I have asked doctors over and over and no one knows why Owen was born nearly 16 weeks too soon.  There have been guesses, but mostly what I hear is “We don’t know.”  I have a choice I can make; I can hear, “I don’t know” and question those doctors’ intelligence and forever question myself on what I could have done to prevent it.  Or, I can hear, “It’s just the way it is” and know that we all are better because of the beauty that Owen brings to our world.

Yep, I’m absolutely convinced.  Special needs are a lot like chlorophyll…”it’s just the way it is.”

You’re hooked, right?  Read additional stories about Tatum, Owen and Kellen over at Ain’t No Roller Coaster.  Tatum writes about her family’s journey with prematurity and special needs and focuses on connecting with people on similar paths.  Her symbol is the zebra whose black and white color signifies the duality of life – the most difficult challenges come along with the greatest joys.


  • Sarah Almond - What a great analogy! This was wonderful-I enjoyed every word of it!

    My son is also very inquisitive and very persistent if he doesn’t get an answer-to the point where I get driven bananas much of the time. While other kids his age are wanting to know about, well, whatever 2nd graders want to know about, he’s currently educating himself on the different elements in the periodic table. He memorized it, and now he’s investigating each individual part. He may not remember much else, but he’s got this down (he is severely ADD and possibly on the spectrum, but as of yet no diagnosis).

    I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Thank you for sharing your story with the Our Land series! 😀 I really need to get my butt in gear and finish my post.June 12, 2013 – 10:18 amReplyCancel

  • Janine Huldie - Yes, Kristi I am totally hooked and seriously this was such a wonderful article and analogy. I taught photosynthesis and chlorophyll to middle school kids and never thought quite this way about it, but really does make sense. Thank you so much for continuing this series (love it by the way–in case you didn’t realize) and thank you to Tatum for sharing with us!! 🙂June 12, 2013 – 10:20 amReplyCancel

  • Julie Sparks - Yep, I’m hooked! Thanks for giving me a great new blog to follow! 🙂June 12, 2013 – 10:34 amReplyCancel

  • Jen - This is an awesome post. And I know why chlorophyll is green, because God wanted our world to be beautiful. Just like God gave us our kids for a reason. We may not know what the reason is for our kids to be special, but they are and they make our world brighter and more special because of it. I love this post, and I love your sense of humor! Such a wonderful analogy for special needs!June 12, 2013 – 10:59 amReplyCancel

  • K - I love this. LOVE THIS. Never again will I think about chlorophyll in the same way, and simply reading about Owen has made my world more beautiful. Kristi and Tatum, I feel so privileged to have found you both, and thank you for sharing this. Hugs!June 12, 2013 – 11:20 amReplyCancel

  • Tatum - Sarah Almond, your son sounds amazing. I’d love him to teacch me about the periodic tables. I can’t wait to read your post!

    Janine, Thank you for validating my scientific reasoning :). I’m so happy to hear it makes sense to someone with a deeper-than-Wikipedia understanding of photosynthesis. I’m honored to have had the chance to contribute.

    Julie, I just took a look at your blog. I look forward to getting to know you through our writings.

    Jen, yes! I often say, “because God made it that way” and Kellen thinks that’s a pretty cool response.June 12, 2013 – 11:47 amReplyCancel

  • Kerri - Okay first I have to admit to the fact that when I first read Kristi’s prompt I thought it was “chloroform” you were talking about. You know the thing that serial killers use to put their victims to sleep? And thought to myself, what the heck????

    As a mom of the undiagnosed I totally get this post, now that it is chlorophyll and not chloroform, sometimes we have to just accept it is what it is. Boo definitely adds color to our lives. So I love this analogy! Thank you for joining Kristi in her quest to find Our WorldJune 12, 2013 – 12:07 pmReplyCancel

  • catherine gacad - What an introspective post. I’ve always believed saying “I don’t know” is a very courageous and honest thing to say, especially since I can only fit so much into my tiny brain. There is only so much we can understand in this complex world and I love how a lot of times it is just the way it is.June 12, 2013 – 12:09 pmReplyCancel

  • Anita @ Losing Austin - I was very intrigued by the post name, but it all makes sense- and so beautifully so. Now I’m intrigued enough to go become a regular on ‘Ain’t No Rollercoaster’ too.

    Thanks for sharing. <3June 12, 2013 – 1:08 pmReplyCancel

  • Considerer - Gorgeous post (and pictures) and YAY for Our Land.

    The thing which blows my mind is that all things we see are the inverse colour of what we see, because that’s the colour they reflect (making them visible) and absorb all the other wavelengths.

    I also love that most plants used to be red or purple (millions of years ago)

    And that you can get black plants (like some of the ornamental grasses in my garden, but no – you wouldn’t want a world of them)June 12, 2013 – 1:23 pmReplyCancel

  • just JENNIFER - I do love a good analogy! It’s funny that your blog is called “Ain’t No Roller Coaster” since my blog theme is “my life is a roller coaster”. But I think I know what you mean. 🙂June 12, 2013 – 1:45 pmReplyCancel

  • Julie Sparks - OMG, I am dying laughing at Kerri here because truth be told that was my first thought too. Chloroform, Chlorophyll, it all sounds the same sometimes! ;-/June 12, 2013 – 1:47 pmReplyCancel

  • Keith DuBarry - Wow, this is amazing! Great analogy and great post. Sometimes, things are just the way they are and it’s up to us to understand and live with it 🙂 Glad to see you’re doing well with this!June 12, 2013 – 1:57 pmReplyCancel

  • Dana - That’s just the way it is – that can be hard to accept, but you are so right. We always want answers, but sometimes that is the answer. Wonderful post, Tatum – thanks for sharing!June 12, 2013 – 2:32 pmReplyCancel

  • Stephanie @ Mommy, for real. - This was AMAZING. I loved the analogy- random or not, it was absolutely brilliant. Cheers to both of you, Tatum and Kristi, for another fantastic piece of writing and beautiful window into life for this series. I loved it. And you’re right, Kristi, I’m totally hooked now!June 12, 2013 – 3:22 pmReplyCancel

  • Joy - What an absolutely beautiful analogy, Tatum! Another wonderful post from you, my dear friend! I really love it and as of now I will always see Sunny as my beautifully green leaf, making my world so much more colourful! <3June 12, 2013 – 3:36 pmReplyCancel

  • Diane - This article was like a cool drink of water on a hot day. I literally drank it in. LOVED IT!! Loved the analogy. I don’t want to live in a dark world, either. I want my chlorophyll. I want my special people who are so anxious to be in this amazing world that they arrive early. I am looking at ours right now as she scurries about the floor. Some day, she, too will walk. And talk. But for now, she brightens our lives, just by being.June 12, 2013 – 3:40 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - Yes, I am hooked..I love Tatum’s writing and train of thought (she calls it “random” I call it “creative!”). It’s funny because when she began writing this post about her first son, I immediately related because I too have a boy who used to always ask “why.” I still sometimes refer to him (to myself, not to others) as “the boys of 1,000 questions). He’s now 15 and still prefers to ask questions as a way to start a conversation.Anyway, great guest post and I also enjoyed the refresher course on chlorophyll! 🙂June 12, 2013 – 3:50 pmReplyCancel

  • Tatum - Kristi has created the best community! Thank you for all the supportive comments, everyone. I’ve peaked at all of your blogs and look forward to following you all, if I’m not already.

    The chloroform comments cracked me up and I guess I’ll suggest that in the future we title it “Why Special Needs is Like Chlorophyll (which is nothing like chloroform)” haha.

    Considerer, the brain is a crazy thing isn’t it?

    Emily…so your saying this isn’t a stage that’s outgrown? Man, I’m going to be smart by the time Kellen is 15!

    Diane, your cool drink of water analogy, warmed my heart. Thank you! Your little scurrier, sounds perfect to me.

    Anita, thanks for stopping by, I look forward to hearing from you in the future.June 12, 2013 – 6:45 pmReplyCancel

  • Kristi Campbell - Tatum,
    You’re right. I really am lucky to have found so many amazing bloggers on this journey. I’m so happy that you let me share your words here today and hope that you find some great bloggers today that will follow your beautiful journey with Kellen and Owen through this lovely green (not chloroform-filled) world of ours!June 12, 2013 – 7:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Rachel Demas - Truly inspired analogy! I love the choice that you made at the end. It’s the one that lets us see the world as beautiful. I’m so glad I got to see the beautiful world as you see it!June 12, 2013 – 8:41 pmReplyCancel

  • Julie Chenell DeNeen - That analogy is amazingly simple and so profound. Love Krist’s blog and you write so well too!June 13, 2013 – 12:29 amReplyCancel

  • [email protected] on Deranged - Excellent analogy, and I think I will adopt, “It’s just the way it is.” I think as humans, we don’t really like that answer because we don’t like mystery as much as we think we do, but at some point in your life you really do realize the truth of it.
    Thank you, Tatum, for sharing (and educating – I’d forgotten Plants 101), and thank you, Kristi, for continuing to show us the path.June 13, 2013 – 1:46 amReplyCancel

  • Muses from the deep - Yes, Kristi, it is just the way it is! And we love it for that.June 13, 2013 – 3:04 amReplyCancel

  • Kimberly - This is such a beautiful analogy. Thank you so much for giving me a little perspective about raising a child with special needs. He is a beautiful boy:)June 13, 2013 – 6:52 amReplyCancel

  • Social Butterfly Mom - Great piece from a mom of a special needs son!June 13, 2013 – 12:07 pmReplyCancel

  • Linda Atwell - Awwww. That is so darn awesome. I am hooked. Thanks for a great post.June 14, 2013 – 6:14 amReplyCancel

  • Out One Ear - Awwww. That is so darn awesome. I am hooked. Thanks for a great post.June 14, 2013 – 6:15 amReplyCancel

  • Yvonne - This is a beautiful post, and as others have said, a lovely analogy. I am also thankful chlorophyll is green – a black world would be far too dark! And your analogy does make it so clear why we also need people like Owen to add beauty to the world.June 14, 2013 – 10:19 amReplyCancel

  • Deb @ Urban Moo Cow - I agree with Rachel – truly an inspired analogy and oh, so true. There are so many examples of where efficiency makes things less beautiful. I’m heading over there to follow you!June 16, 2013 – 10:07 pmReplyCancel

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