Wednesday, May 4, 2016

When Turning 14 Hurts

Whom have I in heaven but you? And I desire no one on earth as much as you! My health fails; my spirits droop, yet God remains! He is the strength of my heart; he is mine forever!
~ Psalm 73:25-26, TLB ~

If you saw her in the midst of her peers, you would notice it.  Her stature is smaller than theirs, and she doesn't sound as mature as those her own age.  She still dresses like a tomboy, wracked with so many sensory issues that continue to nag at her.  Having been marginalized by the girls in her school long ago, the only ones that will have anything to do with her outside of school are a group of boys who she became friends with 4 years ago.  As they get older, she gets teased by one of the guys for being too sensitive.  It seems she just can't win.

She turns 14 years old this weekend, and she is my beloved daughter.

Her social deficits and perseveration continue to plague her.  She doesn't understand why she can't do exactly what she wants to do on her birthday when everyone else gets exactly what they want on theirs.  Never mind that she wants to go roughing it in the woods with a bunch of people, her latest and greatest obsession.

A week ago she climbed into bed next to me with her string bean slenderness, tearful over friendships.  Even among her own gang, she feels out of place.  My heart broke in a thousand pieces as she shared being called the "R-word" at school.  Heaped over in a soft ball, she poured out problems to me that I cannot magically kiss away or fix as a parent.

If I could give her one thing for this fourteenth birthday, it would be this -- The joy of realizing who she is becoming.

God has done so much with this young girl, who has battled so very much from even before she was born.  She seems to have "fighter" woven into her DNA.  After struggling to carry her to term, I remember the doctor proclaiming her "none too done," when she arrived a few weeks early in her tiny frame covered with vernix, long, slender fingers reaching for mine.  

Her toddler years were marked by repeated ear infections followed by serious allergic reactions to the antibiotics given to fight those infections.  One reaction was so severe and rare, that nothing will ever save her life if she is exposed again.  From that point on, she was a runner, wandering off when I even dared to try to use a bathroom.  

Surprisingly, it took her until first grade to have a teacher ask me to get her tested for ADHD.  This teacher wanted her on meds quickly in no uncertain terms.  After trying two or three medications that she also reacted to, we were dealing with our daughter's issues without the help of any medical intervention.  By third grade, I knew we were dealing with more, and she had her first IEP meeting.  After a thorough, expensive series of visits to the neuropsychologist, we returned to the school with diagnoses that included sensory processing disorder (both seeking and avoidant), severe social deficits, and severe ADHD.

While the grade school team was remarkable, teaching our daughter to succeed at basic writing skills and gain awareness of her behavior, intermediate school has been a complete nightmare.  After being dropped down to a 504 plan in her transition (we didn't know then what we know now), we fought the entire first year of intermediate school to get her back on an IEP.  The bullying has been relentless, and the physical mistreatment by other students has been stunning.  There was a time when she was out with a concussion for 2 weeks because of another student slamming her into a piece of playground equipment.  Her sensory issues only prolonged the recovery.

She has struggled on with additional health issues as well.  She had tonsil and adenoid surgery two years ago in an effort to avert more battles with strep, her arch-nemesis.  This winter she spent 6 weeks in a back brace while she underwent physical therapy to help heal her unexpected spondylolisthesis diagnosis.  Her environmental allergies have been particularly hard this spring, knocking her out of school to the point where we are getting nasty letters from the administration about her attendance.

I share this litany of challenges to say that in spite of all of this, God has been transforming her through adversity into a young woman who is already remarkable for her age.  She has learned to self-advocate and is doing very well in her classes without the ability to use medication.  I find that somewhat miraculous!  She is now running track for the first time ever, facing her asthma and allergies head on as she stretches to try something new.  She shows amazing ability with our pets and training, which bodes well for her aspiration to become a police officer in a canine unit some day.  She is a curious learner who discovers every manner of skills and ideas by watching videos online.  And the adults who truly know her love her beyond all measure.  

I smirk as I recall telling her that the parents of all the boys she hangs around with really, really like her, only to have her reply, "Yeah, that's because they know I'll yell at them if they're about to do something stupid."  

So, while turning fourteen may be painful, it is also promising.  She has come so very far!  My challenge is always to help her keep her eyes on Jesus, the friend she will never lose, and Who will always be her strength and gift through every birthday.

PRAY:  LORD, these painful crossroads are where a mother's heart breaks.  We so wish we could take the pain for our babies when times are tough.  This is how You must have felt when Jesus was hanging on the cross.  Thank You for being a God who understands and cares about our every sorrow and concern.

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