Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Kid's Better Than Your Kid!

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. (Galatians 6:2-5, NIV)

An acquaintance of mine shared a hilarious encounter she recently had that sounded like something out of a sitcom episode! She was helping her elderly father with some yard work, and her aunt and uncle suddenly appear on the scene. The acquaintance shared that there has been a long-standing rivalry between her father and these visitors. The aunt and uncle have persistently bragged about their eldest daughter since nearly the day she was born. Anything this friend does can NEVER match the super-human accomplishments of this couple's daughter of the same age! She sews her own clothing, starts all of her garden plants from seed, and dances better than Ginger Rogers! The part that really got us laughing is that the parents are in their 80's and the daughters of notoriety are nearly 60! Needless to say, the competition continued in full view of my friend during their surprise visit.

While this little anecdote was laughable in light of the confidence of adulthood, all too many of us experience that same sense of competition with our own children. The fact that our offspring have special needs often brings an extra layer of hurt to the prideful behavior of others. This can be beyond one's ability to handle, especially when a child has an "invisible disability" such as learning disabilities, autism or mental illness. Those haughty types look even more condescendingly as they lack the understanding to realize that there is an unseen component to your child's level of progress. Parents are often judged as incompetent by neighbors, church members and those at the school when behaviors or lack of self-control have an underlying causality that others fail to recognize.

So, how do we get through these tough times of being belittled when already carrying a heavy burden? Here are some thoughts:
  • Realize that your child is "fearfully & wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) While it's hard to avoid, don't compare your child to others. Trust in the fact that your child is uniquely equipped with their own abilities and talents.
  • Since your child IS equipped with those abilities and talents, spend some quiet time apart from the chaos of life, and reflect on the unique things about your child. Relish those qualities that make your heart full. Whether it be their precious smile or their ability to notice the little things in life, each child is a gift to be treasured. Let your own heart swell with the love you have for your child.
  • Walk through life fully aware that each parent is only one emergency room visit away from having a child with a special need. God warns us that pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18), and what a precipitous drop it can be for those who are walking around with their nose in the air! These parents don't know what they don't know, and are ultimately making fools of themselves!
  • Be confident that you are gaining new skills and making sound decisions because of the trials you face. You are a walking encyclopedia on issues that affect your child. This makes you inordinately useful to the lives you touch every day! Don't allow someone who is arrogant and ignorant to shake your confidence!
  • Support others who are struggling! God surely made us for community. We all need help when we are feeling frustrated or isolated. Because of your journey, the understanding nod or a listening ear you provide can be such a blessing to others. Make it your mission in life to grow in compassion to ALL because of what you've witnessed over the years.
  • DO NOT belittle others! Too often parents who have a child with special needs think that what worked for their child should work for every other child out there. And the perception can be that others are fools if they don't use the same approach. Be wise enough to know that one size does not fit all in any given situation. Instead, use a "take it or leave it" approach when sharing with others what worked for you. Be tender when sharing your child's progress knowing that others who have not come as far may feel a bit deflated when hearing your story.

Face it, without the grace of God, none of us would have a thing to be proud of! Walking with that humble and grateful attitude takes us through life much more happily than those who need to use their children's progress in order to build up their own ego!

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