Thursday, April 20, 2017

When I Was the One Who Triggered the Meltdown

Image Courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /
When they kept on questioning him, 
he straightened up and said to them, 
“Let any one of you who is without sin 
be the first to throw a stone at her.” 
John 8:7, NIV

As parents of children with special needs, we know all too well that those who DON'T deal every day with Sensory Processing Disorder, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, or blindness or -fill in your child's diagnosis here - just don't understand how we work; how it ALL works.

I was recently listening to a friend talk about how her son with autism was "given" an item he had been obsessing over by his teacher. She was upset about it because she was trying to teach him that he didn't NEED that object; that life without the object would still be okay. I agreed with her that this was definitely something done in ignorance. But, suddenly, God brought back to my memory something that I had done many, MANY years ago...
It was Summerfest in Milwaukee, WI. The day had been filled with sun, fun and music. I was in one of the public restrooms washing my hands, and a mom was in there with her two daughters. One daughter was crying because she had wanted a cheap beaded necklace (you know, the dollar store ones which we all have now realized bleed onto our skin when we sweat.)  
Well, I just happened to HAVE such a necklace, and, being in my happy state after a sunny fun-filled day, I said, "Oh, here, Sweetie, you can have mine."
Oh, geez. Clearly the move of a "non-mother" and ignorant graduate student who did NOT know how the world works...
The OTHER daughter exploded into a fit of tears. "How come she gets one and I don't???!!!"
I wanted to crawl into the corner, and I'm CERTAIN their mother did as well. I did NOT have a second necklace to give, and now I was the reason for a round of sibling rivalry that I didn't have to resolve.
With this memory in the forefront of my mind, I began to empathize with the teacher who had given the object to my friend's son.
She DID IT out of love and concern for him.
She DID IT for a wonderful reason!
She DID IT thinking that it would make someone happy.
So, how do we, as Christian parents, and parents who are responsible for raising children with as much social skill as possible express to others WHY we can't give in to our child's obsessions or their every desire?

I look at it as the same way God parents us. He knows each of us and our weaknesses. Sometimes He shields and protects us from the things He knows we cannot handle, but other times He pushes us out of our comfort zones and makes us stare our fears and weaknesses straight in the face.

For example, as a child, I was tremendously anxious...and a BIG hypochondriac. Oh my goodness, in my childhood, when characters on TV shows were diagnosed with cancer, or AIDS, suddenly I had all the symptoms too. My poor mother and father spent many a sleepless night assuring me that I was not sick.

And how does God deal with this fear of mine? Of course, give that girl a child with a rare disease! However, with rare disease, God made me face my fears head on with HIM as my champion and hero. Only by my faith can I get out of bed every day and not be paralyzed with fear. Rare disease has drawn me closer to Him.

But, God HAS given ME moments some peaceful times as well. Those "answered prayers" which come in the nick of time and satiate my desire to feel some relief from my anxiety. Once, for example, we had our daughter in for surgery for her glaucoma...and, as an answer to prayer, she DIDN'T need surgery!  REALLY? Yes! If you can imagine the feeling of relief you might get when you hear, "Surgery is canceled, she's okay today!"

God does that for us too...out of love, out of mercy, and our of knowing that we might just break with that "last straw on the camel's back".

So, I guess my thoughts here are that maybe we can feel less frustration or less offended when a stranger (or someone who "just doesn't get it") gives in to our kid and tries to appease their obsessive desire. I know, it feels like two steps forward and one step back...but, sometimes even God gives us what WE are also anxiously obsessing over...
Some of the most frequent disagreements between my husband and I are over JUST THIS topic. When do we give consequences? When do give her the benefit of the doubt? When do we reward? When do we take away?
These aren't easy questions to answer, and we rarely know if our decision was right or wrong...but they can become contentious and hurtful for the adults involved if we aren't careful.

Ultimately, the question for me comes back to this...How many times have I been the one who, without know or without intent, triggered the meltdown? More than I'd care to know is my guess. So, if I have already been the culprit, do I have any right to cast a stone in anyone else's direction?

Pray:  Heavenly Father, we often have our protocol, our system, our RULES for how to handle certain situations with our children. Help us to remember that there are many wonderful people out there who don't know these rules, and may just be following their heart. Ignorance of our child's particular diagnosis can be frustrating; so help us to remain gracious, and follow Jesus's example. Amen.

~Tammie Hefty