Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teaching Them To Ride Without Training Wheels

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ... For each one should carry his own load." (Galatians 6:2, 5)

Picture if you will a newborn fawn or lamb. Its mother cleans it to stimulate breathing when it first arrives. Shortly after, the babe makes that precarious attempt to stand for the first time, legs splayed and wobbly. Only then can it get its bearings and go about the business of taking nourishment, carrying on with life.

Raising our children goes along in much the same fashion. We give them what they need and prepare them to live their lives on their own.

Unfortunately, many of us parents who have a child with a special need make the human error of overcompensating. Heartbroken by the unfairness of what our child continues to endure, we often throw the rules out the window. Giving them extra attention beyond the necessary, buying them more toys and treats, making excuses for them, and not disciplining their behavior are all common modes of trying to make up for the injustice of our child's diagnosis.

However, nowhere in the Bible does it promise that life is fair. That notion went out the window when Adam and Eve defied the one rule God set before them. As a result, we live in a broken, imperfect world. Nevertheless, God does promise to create something good out of this world's negatives. (Romans 8:28)

Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (NIV) When we as parents heed this command and lift our special kids to the Lord in prayer, He joins us in the parenting process, no matter what the circumstances. Only Jesus is big enough to take the ugliness of our child's diagnosis and turn it into something amazing for His glory.

The necessary ingredient in all of this is discernment. Christian psychologists and authors Dr. Henry Cloud an Dr. John Townsend point out God's clear guidelines in their popular BOUNDARIES series. When we go back and read Galatians 6:2, 5, we see that we're to bear one another's burdens, but each is to carry their own load. The challenge can come in distinguishing between the burden versus the load. A burden would be a crisis or trauma. A load would be the daily living, no matter how difficult it might be. Our mandate as parents is to train our children to carry that load while we help with the burdens.

It is NOT our job to take away every point of concern or discomfort for our children. Going back to the original scenario of the newborn fawn or lamb, the mother helps get the babe going, but she doesn't do the walking and nursing for them. We have succeeded as parents when we have taught our children to adapt and to find the good in life. We do our children no service when we make the rest of the world bend over backwards for them or unwittingly teach them to operate as a perpetual victim. They've got to take the training wheels off the bike eventually and learn to ride on their own.

To encourage you, let me share a recent victory with my son. I try to heed every word I share with you, but I'm a mom nonetheless. I get concerned at times. Recently, Charlie has taken to riding his bike to school by himself. In order to get there, he needs to cross a busy road where drivers are not always very careful. Needless to say, I find it a bit unnerving, and find myself having to swallow hard, praying him to school lest I should interfere. The other day as he left, I gave voice to my nervousness, "Be sure to wear your helmet. And watch out for those crazy drivers! You know how bad that road is!"

To my surprise, admonishment and delight, he replied, "Geez, Mom! Sometimes I think you just need to chill-out! Remember Who's riding along with me!"

In stopping myself from being overprotective, insisting that I be with him or give him a ride to school, I received the delight of hearing where our instructions of faith have stuck with him. I thank God for showing me an area where I've succeeded in Charlie's training. And I ask that He would continue to show me where I am falling short. Overcompensating is something I, like every special needs parent, will be fighting to overcome for the rest of my life!

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