On a particularly taxing summer day, I remember laughing with a family member about how I have often wished God had sent an instruction manual along with my youngest child. Almost from his first day, I had encountered dilemmas I had never heard of. He never slept, never stopped crying, never let me put him down, NEVER slept, hated the car, was always hungry, hated the swing, hated sunshine, .. and did I mention that he NEVER slept? I knew that there were stories of people having fussy babies, but that happened to OTHER people.. not my family. We KNEW how to care for babies. So I will admit that after the 47th night of no sleep, I decided that God was giving me a dose of humility. So I humbly prayed, “Lord, please forgive me for always assuming that harassed and tired looking mothers just weren’t used to caring for children. Please Bless ALL of the sleepless mothers in the world with a good nights sleep. Including me.. if it’s in Your will. Amen.” I don’t know about all the other sleepless mothers in the world, but God woke my husband… who took my crying baby from me .. so I could sleep.
As I journeyed down the road of Special needs, I have prayed many midnight prayers like this one. But the prayer I have prayed the most often could actually be classified as a PLEA. My heartfelt begging of God for the Wisdom to choose the correct path. I have always felt that there were ways to solve every dilemma.. an answer to every issue.. a happiness at the end of every teary-eyed day. Unfortunately, I am a very slow learner. I would trudge along on the path I chose.. knowing I would find the answer. Then on the 47th day.. I would put my son on the bus with a smile forced past my quivering lip.. and as soon as the bus disappeared from site, I would sink (in surrender) down on the steps in front of my house and pray. I can’t even count how many times I cried out to God that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. (Like He didn’t already know that..?) And I would pray that familiar prayer.. “Lord.. forgive me for assuming that every harassed and tired looking Mother.. didn’t know what she was doing. Please Bless every Mother of a Special Needs child with the knowledge she needs, the strength to carry it out.. and a good night’s sleep. Including me.. if it is in Your Will.. Amen.” I don’t know about all the other Mothers of children with Special Needs.. but at that moment I was filled to the brim with Peace. Then God would send someone with a sign for which path I needed to follow. Whether it was a call from a teacher with a new intervention, a dear “sister” stopping by for a cup of tea reminding me that my child WAS IN FACT just a child, or a call reminding me I needed to set up an appointment.. or my favorite, a phone call from a friend telling me she was taking my kids for the night. After way too many years of trying it on my own? I finally learned to start my day with, “Lord please lend me the wisdom, the strength, and the love I will need for this day. If it is in Your Will. Amen.”
I have spent the majority of my life caring for children. My own children, plus the ones that people have shared with me. My preschool classes, my nursery class at church, and my daycare kiddos. There really is no way to count the number of children that have touched my heart and effected my life. But during those years of care, I have come to realize that every child has Special Needs. I had students with high IQ’s, who would melt down with every transition. I had highly organized and efficient students, who had speech delays. Artist students who don’t like to be touched. Students with the best personalities, who could not learn personal space boundaries. I began to see that every student had a special ability or “super power”, and that every one of them struggled with something. Some of those struggles are huge neon signs, but some of them aren’t. Some of the struggles are actually a small “handle with care” tag tucked in their shirt collar. God Blessed me with one of each of these children. My son carries his Special Needs around with a blinking Neon sign.. My daughter tucks hers in her collar on a tiny tag, hidden from the rest of the world. On a particular taxing day, watching my daughter struggle with her “special needs” hidden from the world, I prayed a new prayer. “Lord, I can see that every child struggles with their own needs. Forgive me for assuming that us Mothers of children with Diagnoses deserve more of your time and understanding than any other Mother. Please Bless EVERY Mother in the world with the wisdom of how to help her children, the strength to follow through with that wisdom and a good night’s sleep… including me, if it is in Your Will, Lord. Amen.” I can’t speak for all the Mothers in the world, but I was filled with a peace in that moment.
I still have days that I try things my own way. When I have beat my head against the wall for the 47th time, I remember to take a step back and look for what God is trying to show me. There are days that I yell down the hall for my daughter to come see me immediately. There are days that I can’t handle my son’s behavior and send him to his room. And there are days that I drop my kids off at school, forcing a smile past my quivering lips, then cry all the way home. But for as many sad, stressful moments I have had in my life as a mother of children with Special Needs, I have had so many more filled with joy. That moment when your child laughs with real joy. The smile that is filled with contentment. The pride you feel in their EVERY success. Those moments out weigh the moments of stress. And I have realized that if you LOOK for them.. the moments of joy greatly outnumber the moments of tears.
But the moment I most felt like a good mother? It was the moment that my daughter burst into tears while slamming soapy dirty dishes around, yelling of injustice.. and in that moment I recognized it NOT as a moment of insolence or rebellion.. but as a moment of need. Laughing, as my eyes filled with tears, I wrapped that beautiful, struggling child in my arms (dirty soap suds and all) and gave her a hug until she laughed with me. That is my best Mom moment.