Raising ANY kid poses its own challenges.. but raising a child with Autism (and a side of mood disorder)?
Yeah… we’ve had some rough days ..
…ok.. a lot of rough days … Days that I never want to go back to. New meds, withdrawling from meds, NO meds, no sleep…
… I could go on and on…
It was never hard for me to forgive my son for his bad days.. but it was hard for HIM to forgive HIMSELF..
So early on? We started telling him, “That was yesterday buddy.. TODAY is a new day.. today is going to be a good day!”
If he had a bad day and we had to take away his TV or his computer privileges? It ended when he went to sleep…
Everything reset with the morning ..
Luckily for us? We have had amazing support at the schools we have attended. They have maintained this “new day” policy with him through out his school career. Always forgiving him for bad days and moving forward. Sometimes easier than I could have…
Today as I watched him walk confidently into the school..? I think about how he is counting down the days until he will be a senior. And I think back to when he could barely get through a school day..
…there were days I thought we would never get to this level of independence.. this level of confidence..
..but in the morning when the sun would rise.. so would my faith that good things were going to happen..
When the sun rose this morning, it was such a sight. And I am filled with the promise that Today IS a good day..
FIRST? First we woke up late because we all slept through our alarms (hey… it was a great dream) … I barely made myself look presentable for public.. then we all rushed through our morning.. I made a boring lunch for Sy.. rushed everyone out the door and then a bus was parked at the entrance of the school..
And SIMON WENT to school…
Like he physically (and calmly.. I might add) walked IN TO the school with not more than a cross look at the bus in our way (that he deems a “muddy mudslide” that’s in our way)..
Some of you may wonder if I am serious to be celebrating such a “terrible” “mom” moment..?? HaPpY we overslept and I took my kids to school late?
I AM serious..
This is amazing!!!!
When Simon’s Autism was at its worst and his mood disorder was unstable? Everything had to stay on schedule .. and nothing could be out of order.. or he wouldn’t (couldn’t) have gone to school..
Maybe tomorrow he will let me stop and take a picture of the sun peaking through the fog on my favorite road.. lol..
I have often been asked what I have planned for my son’s future. I always smile and reply “He wants to be a farmer..”
Most of the time people smile in return ..
But sometimes there is an awkward silence and the inevitable.. “Do you really think he will be able to work? To hold down a real job?”
Yes I do!
And no I am not offended by this question..
You see? While my son has Autism (and a splash of bipolar).. His disabilities don’t own him. Simon is his own person and he knows what he wants.. He has known since he was 4.
You may think Simon grew up in a farming community and THAT is why he wants to be a farmer. That he knows no difference.. Well THERE you would be mistaken. Our Simon grew up in a city from age 3 to 13..
Yup his love for farming seems to have been destined for him.
So what did his father and I do? Well? We moved to a farming community back home in Michigan.
Most people question our Sy’s ability to hold down a job because of his behaviors at school.. Freezing in doorways, anxiety over homework, refusals to take tests at times.. And wanting to go home.
But you see? At school?
At school, Simon knows he is behind his peers.. School work is hard… He doesn’t understand test questions because of the wording.. And sometimes (even IF he did understand them) he doesn’t know what they are asking.. He KNOWS he is built inadequate for school..
Yet you will see Simon get up every day and force himself to try to go to school. He can be close to tears in frustration over homework.. And yet he is one to INSIST he finish.. He pushes through anxiety, confusion and what ever distractions are around him (or distractions going on in his own head) to SUCCESS on the other side.
That sounds like a job to me…
At home, Simon is different. At home he is confident, creative, helpful.. He washes his own laundry, washes dishes, cooks whole meals, cleans the house, does chores, builds with his dad..
He does an amazing job!!
Not “pretty amazing” for a kid with autism..
JUST pretty amazing for a 17 year old.. Because he does it exactly the way I do.. (Or the way his dad does).. Exactly the way he was taught..
Then? Then he adds a slash of creativity.
This week, I woke my son to face another hard day at school. As I rubbed his back and talked about his day.. I told him I was going to teach him to drive our lawn mower after school.
He sat straight up in bed and wiped the sleep from his eyes. “What did you say?”
Smiling, I repeated that I thought he was old enough to learn to drive the lawn tractor to mow the lawn.
The smile on his face made my heart happy..
He quickly got ready for his day.. Was still a little grumpy with his sister.. But went to school easily..
AFTER school? Well after school he quickly changed into his farmer hat and overalls, his John Deere shirt with long sleeves and farmer boots..
And our lessons began..
I admit I get nervous with vehicles.. The same nervousness I got when I taught my daughter to drive ..
I ran from one side of the lawn mower to the other .. Pointing out how FAR the mower deck sticks out.. How to slow down.. How to stop.. How to speed up a little.. How to crank the wheel so you don’t crash..
The first 5 mins were nerve racking for me.. Because he learns best by doing.. So at a snail’s pace and yelling over the motor and earplugs.. I gave him on-the-go lessons..
And then he was off.. One circle around the yard and I moved the mower one notch faster.. He watched how I did that too…
He looked for cars when he circled up into the road.. Kept the mower in a straight line.. He mowed next to the first stripe perfectly (or circled back to fix it.. Mowed around baby trees and big trees.. Power poles and ditches..
By the 3rd circle of the yard, I stopped following him.. He no longer needed me.
After 4 hours? He was up to full speed (by his own choice) and the yard was flawless..
Not “pretty good” for a boy with autism..
Not “pretty good” for his first time..
It was pretty awesome.. No missed spots.. Straight lines..
In fact? My husband said he had to weed whack far less than when I mow..
I am not offended by that.. Just really proud..
But I am not surprised.. He always throws himself into his work.. And doesn’t stop until the work is done.. And done well..
We could use more workers like that in the world..
So YES… I think Simon will keep a job and support himself..
And yes, he will need support to start new adventures and to get through difficult situations.. Like doctor offices.. paperwork.. And paying bills..
But he will make it.. And it’s going to be amazing..
Not amazing for a kid with Autism..
Just plain amazing ..
But you don’t have to take my word for it.. Stick around ..
Ok.. I know he has Special needs.. With Autism and a Mood disorder ? I’m not in denial.
But sometimes? Sometimes I think my boy has things figured out better than I do..
You see? When my son is stressed? He takes himself off alone and does something he enjoys until he calms down. Most often that “something” is a campfire. He can sit for hours just watching the flames dancing in the fire pit. And with a content smile on his face, he will call out to me.. “Come sit..”…
But usually? Usually I am too busy.. Getting dinner around or cleaning it up afterward.. or there are emails to answer… book promoting tweets to copy and paste… research to search for… schedules to plan for..
Yes I know… it doesn’t sound like much.. but it seems like there is always something that needs to be done.
Last week I was sick.. and so tired. So I just sat down.. and read a book. NOT skimmed through a book.. but slowly read each page and enjoyed it. Slowly fell in love with each character.. resisted the urge to read the last page… read every descriptive word…
Refreshing… and I was oh so calm.
So why is it that we give up “refreshments” as moms? or even just as adults? Why do I feel like I have to sacrifice my favorite things to be a good adult? I was able to DO so much more that following day because I was content and clear minded…
So maybe my son does have special needs… but I still learn so much from him.
I have a son who has special needs… He has autism with a touch of bipolar. As a parent? That can be tough on a day to day basis.. or it can be easy.. depending on the day… and Honestly? Honestly it depends on the season. Summer is the easiest for us… .. but Please don’t think my son is the norm for all kids with Autism…
There is a very accurate statement out there.
If you know one person with Autism? Then .. you know ONE person with Autism..
Every child with Autism is an individual.. every child with Autism has their challenges.. every child with Autism has their super powers…. Every child with or without Autism.. is a child… first and foremost.
But in our little crazy household?
Summer time is the easy season to parent. So much to do.. free time to explore.
Fall and Winter come with their mood challenges…
Spring is a challenging time for our family… The longer days… the warmer temps… the increased activities… These all increase the serotonin levels flowing through all of our veins… but for a child with a mood disorder? It wrecks havoc on the delicate balance in the system. For us it means increased happiness.. increased agitation.. increased activity.. increased anxiety.. increased frustration… increased laughter.. increased tears.. and sometimes… increased aggression.
I say sometimes…
There were years that all I could remember was the aggression.. because it is devastating… Can you imagine anything more devastating than your child hurting another person? Can you imagine anything more devastating than your child feeling so “in danger” that they lash out to protect themselves? Can you imagine anything more devastating than your child feeling so OUT of CONTROL that they punch themselves in the head to relieve the “pressure”?
All of these things threaten to overwhelm me in the Spring…
But I am Blessed… My husband has always provided a stable platform for me and our two children. Because of this, I have been able to have careers flexible enough to care for our son. Flexible enough that I can be home for him when this Spring thing happens.
With my husband’s support.. constant prayer … and the wonderful people God has placed in my son’s life?? We survive every spring.. Every year we grow a little stronger and mature (my son and I both)…
My son has grown so much.. in fact… that this spring? When the flowers bloomed.. I was able to do some things I enjoy in the spring.. Like taking walks and reading books… and sewing prom dresses.
So someday soon… I hope to rewrite this spring thing…
Sometimes I make plans… Oh can I make some detailed plans... Plans to be productive.. plans to be helpful… Plans to organize my plans…
And then God shows me that it is not MY will … But HIS that I should follow…
When I don’t listen to what God’s Will is.. things tend to go wrong. Just little things.. but there are enough “little” things that I have to deal with? That I start to feel like a salmon … fighting against the current to swim upstream. When I continue to fight against the current… YUP… I feel stressed and exasperated! You probably know the feeling…
When I tried working at the preschool my kids attended? I was good at my job.. and I enjoyed it! I REALLY enjoyed it. But I fought my kids to go to school every day.. with a child on the Autism Spectrum.. with a side of Bipolar? Fighting them to do something that stresses them? It doesn’t really work out very well. I kept having to go pick him up from school because he was overwhelmed. He was stressed.. I was stressed.. my neighbor who was putting him on the bus was stressed…
Then one November? My kids were sick… the whole month. I missed a WHOLE month of work.. A runny nose here.. a sore throat there.. a cough… a wheeze… a fever… some bronchitis…
sigh…. and then I sat still and listened…
You see .. MY plan was not what God had in store for me. It took me 3 years to figure that out.. yes I said 3 YEARS.. I am stubborn and persistent. Once I decided to listen to the Still small voice of God.. I realized what He was telling me. HIS plan for me was not at that preschool that I loved… and I wasn’t listening…
So at the end of the year I resigned… and I stayed home for the next 6 years. And God? God sent me family after family who needed in home care for their kiddos. I never had a shortage of work.. and I never felt like I was swimming upstream… Now it was challenging and was hard work.. don’t get me wrong… but I never felt like I was fighting against every element to make it work…
With that slight change in will-power? I had turned it around, swimming in the direction God was trying to lead me… and BAM.. I was back in control..
Except control is an illusion… I never really had control in the first place….
Someone once asked me what it was like to live with special needs.. Not just special needs really.. But with Autism (and a side of bipolar).. At the time I couldn’t really answer..
I mean.. With autism you know what you get.. Overload.. Anxiety.. Obsession.. meltdowns..
But add Bipolar? Then you add unpredictability.. When you get home? You don’t know if you have a child with a good mood or anger.. Or tears. When your son comes out of his room? You don’t know if you will have cooperation or frustration..
Honestly I can’t tell you if I will see my Son.. his autism.. OR his bipolar… from one minute to the next .. Especially in the spring months..
So to the question? I simply said, “It’s a roller coaster ride.. But it’s worth it.”
And that IS the truth ..
Tonight I watched a movie with my girls called “50 first dates”.. It was really cute .. a little crude in places (yes I am very old-fashioned.. I don’t like crude jokes).. But still cute.. And worth the watch..
For anyone not familiar.. 50 first dates is about a young lady who is in an accident that results in a brain injury. Because of the injury, she cannot create new memories .. So everyday her dad and brother recreate the last day she remembers. Over and over and over again.. When she meets a new guy, he has to help her fall in love with him over and over again.. every day.. Like EVERY day.. Eventually they develop a system.. They create a video of flashbacks since the accident.. Events.. Dates.. And eventually their wedding… And the young lady writes her thoughts in a journal.. A list of things she doesn’t want to forget.. Important things ..
Then she goes to sleep and wakes up refreshed.. And starts each day over again.. Remembering nothing .. Then she watches the video and reads her notes .. EVERY day ..
At the end of the movie? When we saw that she had to be reminded of her child that she couldn’t remember. As the credits began to roll, my daughter said.. “What a terrible way to live”..
But what if she never progressed beyond that accident.. What if she never stopped living that day over and over? What if she never lived ANYTHING NEW beyond that day?
That would be terrible indeed..
But to have flashback videos and hand written notes every morning.. To catch her up to ? To remind her she is married? To remind her she has a baby?
To be living that married life?
To be a mom?
That is being Blessed!
Being a mom to a young man with autism? Living with a loved one with Bipolar? It is very similar to “50 firsts”..
Every morning I wake up.. And I watch a flash back of important moments in our lives.. Important break throughs.. Flash through my mind.. Every day while I drink my chai? I read through the notes I have made through the years.. Only the important ones..
And then I set forth!
I set forth to make new Memories.. New important events.. I deal with each event as they occur.. Living in the moment! Never bringing the past into play.. Not remembering the mistakes from the day before. Unlike the movie? These choices are voluntary.. To choose to forget the bad.. to forget the mistakes..
THEN? Then I record those moments in my mind.. Sometimes I even write important information down..
Some days are good.. And just like movie? Yup.. Some days are a disaster.
And just like the movie? Sometimes the days are so bad that I cry myself to sleep at night ..
Then every night ? I sleep and the stress washes away. I wake up each new day ready to conquer some new activities.. With my flash backs and handwritten notes.
And we celebrate every “first” that comes along.. His first 2 word sentence at 5, his first full night sleep at 6.. His first solo cooked meal.. His first time walking to class on his own.. The first test taken by himself.. The first time he stayed home alone..
Ok.. You are right! There are WAY more than 50 “firsts” in our life. But we celebrate each one…
I know that some people look at my son’s life .. At MY life.. and they think, “What a terrible way to live”..
But to me?
To me a world without my son in it? A world without 50 OR 100 “firsts” being celebrated?
I have always had a love of landscape paintings. Even as a child, I would stare at their beauty… Search their depths for color and stories. Each one told a story of a journey to me… a journey that would end in the clouds in the distance.. Those clouds representing Heaven to me. The weightlessness of the clouds.. representing all our cares being lifted from us when we die.
As I have matured, I have started to see these landscapes differently. I still see those clouds as representing Heaven.. Standing firmly in my Horizon.. often with the light of God shining through them.. But I now see the background.. the mountains or distance fields.. not as where I am heading.. but where I have been. Each color representing a different event in my life. Darker colors for the harder trials or disappointments. Brighter colors for the joys that God has blessed me with.
Leaving the Valley in the focus of the portrait.. the valley being what we are living now. And that is how it should be.. focusing on the here and now.. not on the past or the future.. but focusing on what God has set before us.
But sometimes it is good to see where we have come from.
I have a lot of dark shades in my landscape. Disappointment in choices I made when I was younger. Mistakes I have made. Events in my past.. events I had no control over. Events that I had to struggle through.. such as the first few years with my son’s diagnosis of Bipolar. Those years of medicines that didn’t work.. years of trying strategy after strategy. The days I broke down from exhaustion. All of these add darker shades and shadows.
I wouldn’t give up any of those dark colors.. those blacks.. grays.. dark blues… the shadows.. Those shadows? Those shadows made the bright colors.. the deep hues stand out all the more. Because I had known great disappointments.. great sorrow…? Because of those events, I could appreciate good people.. good memories.. my accomplishments.. my son’s & daughter’s accomplishments.. and the joy my children bring THAT much more.
Having good people in my life definitely makes my landscape prettier. And as I have said before.. it takes a whole village to raise a child… That whole village becomes that child’s landscape. I have a very extensive landscape. So many people have been Blessings in my life. I have been very Blessed indeed.
This week I am looking off into my landscape. At one particular bright spot.. or maybe a few.
I have an Uncle that married into my family. A very jolly man. He always had a smile and a greeting for everyone.. I remember staying at their house and having it always full of people and activity. His enthusiasm for everything.. when we took our annual bike trip. Listening to his strong voice praying in front of groups.. not caring who could hear him. I listened to stories he told of Mission trips that he went on with my Aunt.. sometimes with a little envy.. (for I know that my Mission field is here in my back yard.. and not around the world.).. and he always had stories filled with pride for his loving family.
Not that my Uncle couldn’t be serious or firm.. I know I saw those sides of him also… They just don’t stand out like the joy that shone from his face when he caught sight of you.
My Uncle passed away suddenly this last week. He wasn’t sick.. he didn’t suffer.. but God called him home.
You may think that a dark patch of paint has appeared in my landscape because of this… but other than the slight shadow of sadness behind his bright shape? I can’t find any new dark patches.
Now don’t get me wrong.. I will probably tear up when he doesn’t come out to greet us when I go to visit my Aunt the next time. It doesn’t mean I won’t think of my cousins when I hug my own sweet Dad the next time. And it definitely doesn’t mean I am not looking forward to seeing him when I am called Home myself.
But it does mean that sometimes we don’t notice how brightly someone shines in our lives.. until that small shadow of sadness appears behind them.. making their colors.. their strengths.. the Blessings they had to offer… Those shadows make their colors shine all the more brightly. Especially when the light of God is shining down through the clouds of Heaven onto them.
My parents are my biggest fans… That is not to say that I am their favorite child. I am one of seven siblings.. and my parents love us all equally. I mean how could you compare any of us to each other? My older brothers were both Nuclear Engineers on naval ships. They know how to fix and maintain an engine that powers a massive ship… I barely know how to change the oil in my car. My sister can make beautiful jewelry… and other beautiful creations. She used to manage a store before that. She has focus and a drive that I could only dream of. My younger brothers are all wonderful “boys” that I am proud to know myself. They are all successful at work. One is a supervisor… I can barely keep my kids on task.. let alone adults! One knows how to work on “renewable fuel cells”… I don’t really know what that means.. I keep picturing him working on giant batteries! And the youngest is a manager of an auto parts store.
Every single one of them have hearts of Gold…. so how could my parents choose a favorite? They couldn’t… There is no common ground to compare us on.
So how could they be my biggest fans? If I am not their favorite? Well .. in a way I am their favorite… I am their favorite distractible, creative middle child … and their favorite youngest daughter.. Just like my oldest brother is their favorite firstborn… And my sister is definitely their favorite oldest daughter. In fact, we all have traits that make us shine… and they are so proud of us for them.
But that does not mean I was spoiled.
Ha.. in fact … there were definitely periods of my childhood that I thought my parents were the “meanest” parents in the world. When my parents explained I wasn’t allowed to go to the local skating rink.. because there were rumors of activities there that my parents did NOT want me exposed to… Man did I think they were mean… I mean REALLY!! Those were just rumors… right?!? When my parents insisted on meeting every one of my friends before I could spend the night with them? Honestly.. whose parents do that? And when my parents wouldn’t let me go on a date until I was 16.. and THEN they had to meet each and every one of them?!?
Yes… there were plenty of moments in my life when I thought my parents were mean…
But every moment of my childhood .. I knew that I was loved..
Every moment of my childhood.. I knew that my parents were trying to do the best they could for me.
How did I know?
Because they told me. They told me .. and all of my siblings.. that they love us… every single day. Even when they were frustrated with us… even when they were disappointed in the choices we made… even when we were making them crazy… They always told us, “I love you.. and I know you can make better choices.” “Your mother told me what happened today.. and I am disappointed. We both love you and expect better from you.” It was so heartbreaking for me .. to see tears in my father’s eyes. Each and every punishment I received in my childhood was explained to me. When my father told me that the spanking I was about to receive.. hurt HIM more than it would hurt ME?!? I didn’t believe him. I mean I was the one about to be spanked .. right?!?
What hurt more than anything… it was the tears in my father’s eyes. The quiver to my loving father’s voice as he explained why (as parents) they couldn’t let me get away with questionable behavior. The hesitation my father always showed in giving out punishments. What hurt was that I KNEW it was ALL because of a choice I made… It was ALL because I had a weakness.
Those tears in my father’s eyes?
They followed me everywhere… The memory of that hurt I caused.. it kept me from making so many more mistakes in my life. That does not mean I was perfect.. I am most definitely NOT perfect. I have had my fair share of punishments.
Then I always had a hug.. and forgiveness.
Why did my father go through with punishing us kids? If discipline was obviously so unpleasant for him? Why would he still do it? He did it because he knew what God expected from him as a parent. And God tells us what He expects from us in His book,
“He who spares his rod hates his son (or daughter),
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly,” Proverbs 13:24
So my parents disciplined us promptly. Because they had such high hopes for us.. Hopes for us to be the BEST person we could possibly be.. The person that God wanted us to be. So? So my parents were mean.
Sounds like I was a naughty child.. doesn’t it? I wasn’t extremely naughty.. but I WAS a child. Children always make mistakes. And just like my parents were there to tell me that they loved me and were so proud of me… They were also there to catch me when I fell .. and tell me they were disappointed. They were always there to tell me they KNEW I could do better next time. And I always felt cared for..
EVEN as a teen.. when I felt their logic was somewhat “misguided”? I still felt loved.
Since those days.. so long ago… I have come to see their wisdom. Not just in parenting my two children.. one so strong willed.. and one with special needs. No I have seen it in others around me.
I have seen parents who are so busy “providing” for their child.. that they forget to care about their child’s needs. Not just be annoyed with their child’s bad behavior.. but to be saddened by it.. To not just punish their bad behavior.. but to discipline them. To use love to guide them.. explaining why good decisions are necessary.. even when those decisions are hard…
Some parents are just “too tired”.
Oh… and I understand tired. Not only do I have a strong willed, independent, free thinking daughter. I also have a son who has autism. Along with autism, my son has bipolar. Bipolar affects the moods.. For reasons unknown.. the body releases an imbalanced amount of hormones.. causing the person to be unusually happy.. or scared for no reason.. distractible … or restless.. Sad for no apparent reason… and on certain occasions.. a crazy mixtures of more than one of these emotions.
For my son… it happens with the season changes. And spring is the worst. Maybe it’s the increase in sunshine that disturbs the serotonin balance. Maybe it’s the increase of exercise after the long winter? Maybe it is a natural excitement for the coming summer and it’s freedoms? What ever the cause… my normally calm and loving child turns into the Energizer bunny … mixed with… a sassafras tree. Back talk, aggression.. refusal to cooperate… Constant chatter… lack of sleep (for me or him)… Constant hunger… Instant anger…
Yes.. I know tired….
There were days I wanted to give up..
There were days I couldn’t discipline my son… Days that my tears were more than just pools in my eyes.. Days that I couldn’t even explain my punishment to my son… days my voice did more than just quiver..
But I trudged on…
Why continue to discipline when it seems pointless? Or in some eyes.. why discipline my son’s actions when he obviously cannot control them?
Because I love my son.. and I know what he is capable of. I can see what kind of man he could be with proper discipline. I can see the glimmer of the person God wants him to be. My son needs to see that there are ALWAYS consequences for his behaviors.. That no matter how hard it is to control his imbalanced emotions.. That he has to do it. And my job? My job is to guide this wonderful child as he grows. It’s my job to guide my head-strong, independent daughter. To guide them both with love .. and patience.. and discipline.
I trudge on because I remember my father’s eyes.. I remember how he never gave up on me. No matter how tired he was after a long day of work. No matter how he must have wanted to do anything else .. anything besides giving his children another “talk”… Because he loved us? He trudged on that extra mile..
Those eyes remind me of my Heavenly Father’s eyes.. As I have grown in my Faith.. I imagine our Heavenly Father’s eyes look a lot like my father’s. Imagine they fill with love and pride at our accomplishments… and I imagine they fill with tears and heartbreak when we disappoint him.
And yet… Our Heavenly Father is always there to pick us up when we fall. He never gives up on us…
So when exhaustion threatens to overtake me?
Then I pray… “Please Lord.. give me the strength to make it through this next mile.. or so.. Please fill me with love, patience.. and discipline… So I can show my child I care… In your name I pray..”
Something else drives me to trudge on… another thing I see when I want to give in to exhaustion…
I have seen the eyes of a child whose parents did not love them.
I have seen the eyes of adults whose parents did not bother to go that extra mile. The eyes of a grown child .. eyes that know that their parent isn’t their fan. The child who doubts that their parent even loves them… The child who knows their parent doesn’t like them. And in their heart.. that child “knows” it was their own mistakes that forced their parent to not care. How do they know? Because their parent tells them.. That child? That child doubts the reason they were created.
We have all seen that child..
The child that cannot seem to do anything right.. The child who is constantly grounded… The child who feels like they are a disappointment. The child who disobeys (over and over) to get attention.. Any attention…
I can’t imagine being that child. Not being sure that someone will be proud of my every accomplishment.. Proud that you won the coloring contest at the grocery store.. proud of the “A” you earned in English.. proud that you mastered the curved tail on your cursive “g”.. I couldn’t imagine being the child that performs.. wondering if anyone in the audience was clapping JUST for them. I couldn’t imagine not being assured that someone will still love you when you make a childish mistake… I couldn’t imagine going to bed at night and not feeling cared for.
But I haveseen that child. I have seen them in stores.. at parks.. at school.
I have seen a parent tell a child that their birth ruined their life. I have watched a parent berate their child for being worthless in the middle of a gym full of people. I have seen parents laughingly admit that their child doesn’t know any better.. or that they aren’t capable of anything better.
In those moments? That parent failed their children..
We have all seen that parent…
I can imagine being that parent.. because I have been that parent… Not everyday… not every month… But I have been that parent. The parent that forgets to discipline and settles for punishment. When I am exhausted.. exhausted beyond the extra mile… I fail my children. I have yelled at them more than a few times. I have sent them to their room with a, “I can’t even stand to look at you right now.” I have finished chores for them when I was too exhausted to make sure they followed through to the end. And once…
Once… In a particularly trying time of my life as a parent.. Once I even told my daughter I wasn’t sure I even liked her anymore.
The pain I saw in her eyes in the moment?
It made my heart stopped.
And I cried.
In that moment I failed my child… and I knew it. That failure is worse than any exhaustion. Worse than any other punishment I ever received.
When I finished crying (and praying for forgiveness).. I went in to talk with my headstrong daughter. First? First I apologized to her.. because of course I like her.. I absolutely love this beautiful creation that God sent to me. I explained that I let myself give into frustration and lash out on her. But that it wasn’t her fault.. No.. the fault was mine. I tell her that although no one is perfect.. my words were unacceptable.. and asked her to forgive me.
After I hugged her.. and told her I loved her.. with tears in my eyes (and on my cheeks).. and a quiver in my voice… Then it was time to correct my punishment .. and change it into discipline. I explained to her that I CANNOT let her be disobedient and make poor choices. That even though discipline is exhausting and unpleasant.. I do it because I love her… I love that beautiful soul that God gave her so much.. and I explain that it is my job to guide her. A job given to me by God himself.
Yup… I told her that discipline sometimes hurts me more than it will hurt her.
Even though I apologized to her for my weakness.. and she forgave me? That moment still haunts me. Will that be the moment that sticks out in her memories of me..? Not of love and patience.. but one of anger?
I pray every day that it won’t be.
I also pray for God’s guidance.. His love.. His patience and His discipline for me in my own life.. To help me be the parent He meant for me to be… The parent like I had…
So I guess I am praying to be my kids’ biggest fans. To love them and hope for their best future.. beyond anyone else in THIS world.. That is what I strive to be..
But I know that God is actually their biggest fan.. He cheers them on everyday… Tears of pride at their accomplishments.. Tears of disappointment when they fail.. But always the unfailing love and support. I can strive to be like God … but I know.. I will always fall short of that.
So in this instance?
I am aiming for second best…
Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.