Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2 Things a Special Needs Parent Can Never Be

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He shows those who are humble how to do right,
    and he teaches them his ways.
~ Psalm 25:9, NCV ~

Parenting 3 kids with chronic diagnoses and special needs has been MORE than an adventure for me these past 20 years. It has been a teacher. God leaves moms like me with wisdom and savvy in direct proportion to how we keep our eyes fixed on HIM during the journey.

Here are 2 things the Lord has taught me that special parents can never be:

1) HUMBLE enough

  • It begins with addressing the pride involved with our lost expectations. Each of us as parents must come to terms with our broken dreams of having a "healthy" or "normal" child. There is humility in accepting where we have arrived versus where we thought we might be. 
  • I had to be humble enough to ask for and accept help when I needed it. Over the years I learned that my pride of not allowing others to help ended up robbing THEM of a blessing. It also stood in the way of building understanding and acceptance of my kids' diagnoses or our struggles at home. The more I would allow people to step into our mess, the more I was actually teaching them about other families just like mine.
  • Speaking up when I didn't understand something involved humility. It would have been too easy to act like I knew it all or had it all together, but that wouldn't have provided the best decisions for my kids. Asking other parents questions or asking doctors for clarification until I knew what was going on meant I had to be humble.
  • It may be hard to believe, but I have blown it so many times in my parenting journey. If I had not been able to apologize and admit I am wrong over the years, we never would have made progress. I apologize to my hubby nearly every day. I often admit my mistakes to my kids. More than once I have had to say, "I'm sorry," to an educator. I have been known to apologize to insurance customer service reps at the beginning of our phone conversations, warning them that I would be likely to lose it during the call and it wasn't their fault. And yes, I have even apologized to medical staff and doctors. That's a WHOLE lot of humble pie over the years!
  • Wrestling with an Almighty God has left me humble. When I get angry at my circumstances or that things don't improve, I still have to admit in the end that He is God and I am not. He knows better than I do. He has my best in mind. He loves my children more than I ever could. Trusting Him in all of these ways involves humility.
 2) FORGIVING enough

  • Here again, it begins the moment your child's difficulties surface. People say the most insane things. Frankly, it shocked me more than it should have when our son was diagnosed at birth. Friends would ask how we were, but then glaze over and change the subject once we actually told them. Family members made horrible statements to us about our daughter's behaviors without knowing all of the facts. Neighbors marginalized us through our darkest times. Even so, it was important for me to remember that A) I am a wicked sinner forgiven by a loving God; B) They don't know what they don't know. They may even have good intentions. But their comments and reactions are just out of ignorance and fear. I had to extend compassion when I least wanted to.
  • I quickly learned I had to forgive myself. So many times I did the Accuser's job for him. I felt guilty for passing on a genetic disorder to our son. Regret haunted me as I wondered why I hadn't pushed for earlier diagnosis of my daughter's behavioral issues. Buying into the false narrative that I was a bad mother exemplified the type of mistakes to which I was prone. I have had to forgive myself repeatedly, realizing that if Jesus forgives me, I have no right to hold my imperfections and errors, true or false, against myself.
  • So many times I look in the rearview mirror of my life and think, Why did I ever let that professional get away with that? Doctors, therapists, educators, administrators, all need our forgiveness and grace from time to time. Yes, we have had to "fire" certain doctors over the years or assert ourselves in IEPs. However, more often I have needed to forgive those who made oversights or didn't cooperate with interventions. Each of the people in these roles is a fallible human being just like myself. I have had to work hard to remember to extend the same grace to them as I want for myself. 
  • Forgiving strangers seems like a constant. The glances of disgust at my son's bruises, the comments about giving my child too much sugar, all of these interactions are again born of ignorance. If I can remember that God knows and sees, I can let it go rather than holding a grudge against someone I don't even know.
  • If I did not extend forgiveness to my husband every day, I don't think I would still be married. Again, this all comes back to expectations. I learned early on that it was unreasonable for me to expect my husband to understand what was going on with the kids to the same level I did. Additionally, it was silly of me to expect that my spouse would do things exactly the same way that I did. I am not a completely flawless parent. It's ridiculous of me to expect him to be perfect.
As we walk this journey as parents we are given a unique platform to point to Christ. When people see us behave differently from the world in how we respond to the challenges of parenting our kids, they notice. This difference allows them to see the influence of Jesus on our lives. We are ambassadors of hope in hopeless times. Extending boundless humility and forgiveness goes a long way towards softening others in a harsh world.

PRAY: Holy Spirit, cultivate more humility and a forgiving spirit in me. Increase my self-control when I want to lose my temper or have a quick tongue. May I be a worthy ambassador that reflects Your glory rather than propping up my own pride.

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