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.
When we moved to Missouri in 2002, my kids were little. So our only requirement for a house? A BIG backyard. Growing up in the woods, I needed trees and I needed space in our suburban yard. My husband found it for me. A huge backyard on a cul-de-sac. Five mature trees made the backyard somewhat secluded. He knew I would love it and put a contract on it within minutes. He was right.. it was perfect for us.
Well God was looking out for us that day. We were looking at our children’s immediate need.. but God? He was planning for their future. So while I was looking for trees for tree swings, a wide open space to play baseball and a shaded place for a playset… God found us a perfect village. He put us right by the perfect friends for my family. Close to my husband’s Missouri family. And he chose the perfect school for my children.
My son is a sweet, lovable boy with a face full of freckles, beautiful blue eyes and the most contagious smile. When you take your first glance at this tall attractive boy? You do NOT see Special Needs. You see a teenage boy. You do not see that he didn’t talk until he was 3. You cannot see that he was diagnosed with Autism at 4. And you cannot see that he was diagnosed with Bipolar at 6. When we bought a house with a backyard full of trees? I didn’t see it either. But God knew our future.. and He planned for us. He provided the perfect place for my boy to grow.
Why was a school so important a part of my kid’s future?
I wholeheartedly believe that the whole village impacts a child as they grow up and mature. The village is a child’s family, their church, their friends .. AND their school. When a child has Special Needs? That school makes up the large part of their future.
You see.. No mother can do everything on her own. But a mother with a special needs child.. she HAS to trust the school to provide the things she cannot. I had to trust the school to take care of my child and provide him a safe environment. I had to trust the Special Education director to get him the therapies my son needed. I had to trust the IEP team to develop the best plan for my son’s school year. And I had to TRUST the teachers to push my son toward success. Yup, I said PUSH. I don’t want my son to SURVIVE school… I really want him to excel at school. You may think that is a lofty set of goals for Special Needs.. It MAY be.. I may aim too high.. But I would rather aim too high and settle slightly.. then to not aim high enough. My son is amazing. He is artistic. He is smart. He is a hard worker.. and my son wants to go to college. But he is a child.. children will choose the easier path if you let them. So I refuse to let him.
This school that God picked for my family? They wanted everything that I wanted for my son. The “village” we found at Henderson Elementary? Principals, Assistant Principals, Special Education Director, Paraprofessionals, Teachers, Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and even the Librarian. THAT village of amazing people? They became our family for those 6 years.. and beyond. When my son had successes, no matter how small.. they celebrated with me. When I had fun stories to tell.. they were the ones who laughed with me. When my son was being stubborn, they were the ones who planned WITH me on how to turn it around. When my son was unstable, they helped develop a plan to keep himself and others safe. When I had to cry? They were the ones crying with me. But the most amazing thing for me? When the days were long.. and rough.. and there was NO hope shining from those beautiful blue eyes.. These amazing ladies were STILL there rooting for my son to succeed. No matter how bad the days were..they were the ones who met my son each morning with a smile and forgiveness in their hearts.
Some of those days were really bad.
Bipolar doesn’t sound that terrible. But it is a terrible disease. It is also known as Manic Depression. Basically with this mood disorder? Your body doesn’t make the right amount of the hormones you use to control your emotions. Not enough serotonin and you feel depressed. Too much serotonin and you feel euphoric. Too much adrenaline and you feel scared/aggressive. I could go on.. but I think you can see the trend. With Autism there are triggers.. too hot.. too cold.. too loud.. too frustrated.. too .. anything. With Bipolar? Other than the seasons, we can find no pattern.
When my amazing son starts to cry those big crocodile tears because his brain is telling him he is overwhelmingly sad? My motherly instinct is to hold him and protect him. When my son wants to laugh at the world because his brain is telling him he is elated? My instinct is to laugh along. When my son wants to hurt himself? Stab himself with a pencil? Pull out his hair? Punch his head because his brain is too confused for him to think clearly? I want to step in and protect him… and then cry. But Bipolar is there for Life.. So Life must go on.
This “village” that God provided for me? For us all? They were there will us every step of the way. Cheering for us.. handing out smiles.. encouraging… (keeping straight faces).. Why did they? I have no idea!! But I am so grateful. Because without them? We wouldn’t be where we are. Because of their help and their determination? My son has learned that Life has to go on no matter WHAT your brain is telling you. They helped him with coping strategies.. and they never made my son feel like there was anything wrong with him.
Because of the acceptance of this amazing group of professionals? My son was accepted as a valuable part of the “village” by everyone. (I could write a book on how we all took part in this awesome feat.. and I probably will…)
This amazing accepting “village” was great for more than just the children with Special Needs. My daughter who absolutely loves to learn and loves school.. this school that God picked for us, provided something for her as well. Because the school valued her brother as a part of its village.. No matter what… She learned to accept her brother without question. But more than that.. I think it gave all kids a strong feeling of security. If a child with an obvious disability can be accepted for who he is .. and loved because of it? How can a child with a small insecurity NOT feel safer? The students at this school turned into a wonderful group of kids.
So imagine my distress, when God sent us home to Michigan?
I love Michigan. It’s beautiful! It has trees … and lakes.. and rivers.. and trees… did I mention trees? I didn’t realize how much I loved this home state of mine until we moved away. And Michigan also holds the majority of my family. Oh.. we wanted to move home with a passion.
But I was worried.
If we moved schools.. how would my kids live without this amazing village that God had given us all? How would we survive without it? So I dove into research. Websites, school review sites, anecdotal review sites, phone calls to school, joining online support groups to get advice… and yet nothing. I finally knew the area we wanted to end up in.. but there were still 10 school to choose from. So more phone calls and house tours. We narrowed our search finally to 5 houses.. Each in a different school district. I set up tours.. and I prepared for the whisper of the Still Small Voice of God to lead my way.
What I got was a roar. I almost cried.. (okay I cry a lot).. This school that God led us to? From the moment the Special Education director called me ahead of time.. to the secretary asking how she could help me.. to the amazing tour I received from the principal.. and every person I met along the way… Every thing was a roar from God that this was it!! This was the new village He had planned for us… And who was I to argue?
This week I dropped off my son to school. He walked independently through the front doors and headed to the locker he independently opens. He independently headed to a meeting he had with his teachers.
You see? My son still hits sometimes. This week he hit one of his BIGGEST fans. His brain told him he was scared or frustrated or angry or something.. and it was so overwhelming he punched one of our favorite people in this new village. Then he cried. And so did I.. I am crying again as I type this. This amazing person doesn’t just want my son to exist.. she wants him to be amazing.. she wants him to be the BEST he can be… so she pushes him to excel. Unfortunately that puts her on the front lines of the battle. She has encouraged him to be independent, successful.. and most importantly.. My son is so proud of who he has become. Then when he snapped? Since she was on the front lines, she got hurt. That hurts my heart every time I think about it. But what makes me stop in absolute AWE. This amazing lady who was hit by my adult sized boy? She forgave him immediately. “Seven times seventy,” she says is their motto. That is absolutely amazing .. and it is hard to do. Even though she forgave him immediately, she is still hurt.
I would like to point out that forgiving is a lot different than accepting. I do not accept that my son HAS to hit.. and neither do any of his teachers. Forgiveness means you try harder next time to do it differently. That is what I teach my son. We always try again. And the next time we try ..we WILL do it better.
Through her pain (both physically and mentally), the teacher my son hit is standing with the rest of the team to make a plan, so that we can try to prevent it from happening again. This plan isn’t to not push him as hard to succeed. It is a plan to help him deal with the confusing messages his disease sends him. To help him move toward a successful (and non aggressive) high school career.. To help him move toward being an independent hard working adult.
So today? Today I am thankful that God has brought this amazing lady into our lives. Yet this amazing lady is only ONE of the amazing professionals at this small school in the country. Every person my son has come into contact with has made a huge impact on his life. So today I am ALSO extremely thankful God has provided another amazing village for my kids to grow up in.
When I watched my son walk through those doors, to head to that meeting on his own. A meeting to talk about how to turn the next bad day around to make it better.. on his own? YUP.. I was crying again. Because he couldn’t be that independent, confident or determined young man without the “villages” that God has given us. I could never have done it on my own… and to tell you the truth.. I wouldn’t want to try.
At the end of the school year, I always look for the perfect thank you gifts. How do you tell someone thank you for going to the front lines of battle everyday .. just so your son can be the best that he can possibly be.. A gift card? A coffee mug? What I really wish was to give them a trip to Egypt .. or a day at the spa. But I can’t afford that AND stay home to be available for those bad days. So I settle for a heartfelt card and home made cookies. Is it enough? NOPE.. But while I am praying that my son grows in control every day.. I also pray that God will Bless each and every person that has come to care for my children. That He will keep each and everyone of them in His Glorious hands and protect them.
So in the End? In the End all I can do is pray for a whole village.
Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.