Wednesday, October 25, 2017

When 1% Is as Good as it Gets

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, 
so that people are without excuse. 
Romans 1:20, NIV

This past weekend I had the great fortune of spending time with two girlfriends (child-free) in beautiful Lake Tahoe. We live less than two hours away, so all three of us knew about the salmon spawning at Taylor Creek. Hiking the creek area and down the trail to Lake Tahoe was a wonderful opportunity, and it got me thinking about life and the challenges we face as we help our OWN loved ones "swim upstream."
As always, I love a good analogy, and I know that there are many times we might say that raising a child with special needs is like swimming upstream (as salmon do during spawning season.) 
BUT, what I didn't realize before this trip was all of the changes that NATURALLY take place in the salmon during spawning season and what the entire process entails. I couldn't help but think about all of the NATURAL changes that occur in US as parents of children with special needs as God prepares us for what lies ahead: a VERY challenging and, at times, dangerous journey.
The salmon we find in Taylor Creek, which live most of their lives in Lake Tahoe are the kokanee. They didn't occur naturally in Lake Tahoe, but were accidentally introduced in the 1940s. (Cudahy, C. 2017, October. Lake Tahoe’s kokanee salmon are spawning in Taylor Creek — and you shouldn’t miss it.) This makes the kokanee the only salmon which stays its entire life in fresh water, while all other types of salmon will live in the ocean (salt water) and return to fresh water (where they were born) to breed. (Salmon Life Cycle, accessed 10/23/17.)
In order for salmon to live in salt water and to start them in a down-stream migration, they undergo a CHEMICAL CHANGE called smolting. I think this is like us as we just prepare to become PARENTS. We're moving from juvenile adolescence into a place of adult independence. We're starting to want to bring more people into our life... people who we will watch out for and train up to be adults some day as well.

Once we have our kids, and we receive the heart-wrenching news that something is "wrong" or "atypical," we realize that our dreams are going to need to change... that our lives are going to be a little more difficult than we had anticipated.  
We might find we need to return to the place from which we came (like the fish who need to travel back to their fresh water birthplace for their breeding)...we will need to depend on others again: friends or family to baby sit, depend on the government to help with medical bills, depend on a faith which may have gone by the wayside while we were developing our own independent selves.

Similar to the spawning salmon, WE may undergo some physical and physiological changes as we deal with the stress of day to day living. For example, salmon begin to change colors. This reminds me of when friends might say to us, "You look tired." "You don't seem like yourself." "What has happened to you? You never laugh anymore."

How about that comfort eating? I can't tell you how many times my weight has yo-yo'd up and down as I deal with the varying levels of stress in our lives. I always say that my daughter lost weight while she was on chemotherapy as a baby and my husband and I gained it all for her.

Migraines, anxiety, depression, arthritis, fibromyalgia... I can't even name all of the illnesses that I have noticed my friends who have children with special needs being diagnosed with. I think it's easy to see the connection to these chronic and painful illnesses and the hormones that are released and sleep that is lost as a super-stressed parent.
The male salmon will even grow a hump on their backs, develop a kype (hooked jaw) and sharper teeth (Cudahy, 2017). This reminds me of the time I was told that I was developing a condition called "mom posture." My daughter was so delayed in her walking and had been sick so much as a baby that I was developing a curve to my back caused by holding her and carrying around even as she got older and grew longer.

But, the biggest similarity I see between parents of children with special needs and the spawning salmon is the desire to help plant seeds of future dreams and then to protect them with every ounce of energy we have.
A female salmon lays 400-1200 eggs... she digs a whole (in gravel, thank you) with her tail and lays her eggs about four inches deep (Cudahy, 2017). Only 1% of these eggs will survive.
I think THAT is how we feel about the dreams of and for our children. We dig in, we dig deep, we dig with everything we've got... we lose sleep, we send e-mails, we make phone calls, and we sometimes blow our tops off with anger... and it's so we can PROTECT THESE DREAMS just as the salmon will protect their eggs.  Unfortunately we often feel like only 1% of the dreams survive. 

It's not a perfect world.  
Resources are scarce; there are never enough teachers, never enough therapists, there's never enough money and there's never enough empathy to help our children make friends easily in a culture of conformity.   
But, the salmon are still here, every year. The 1% is enough to keep them going. The 1% is enough to make the same God-given instincts kick in year after year.

Maybe we should think more like a fish! Maybe we shouldn't be distracted by the 1% number and just KEEP doing what God has created us to do. Plant those dreams, fight for them, and when only 1% survives...come back and plant more. 

Pray: Heavenly Father, I know you created every living creature on earth and I marvel at your intelligent design. You have surrounded us with beauty and I'm in awe of You and Your creation. Thank you for inspiring me with nature. Thank you for your reminder that in YOU we are victorious, and that 1% may be ALL that you intended it to be, and their is not fear nor failure in that number. Amen.

~ Tammie Hefty


  1. I REALLY enjoyed this comparison to nature. Very accurate and encouraging. I'm so glad to know that other parents visualize the special needs journey the same way I do. God bless.

    1. Thank you, Denie!!! I love your feedback and encouragement!