Let me start by saying that I am honestly thrilled for every step forward my son takes. Truly thrilled! However, there are some of his not so “normal” traits that I never want him to lose.
This realization hit me a short while back when yet one more playschool mom informed me that her daughter planned on marrying my son. I laughed and said that she’d have to get in line as he seems to be amassing quite a group of girlfriends.
I shared this cute little anecdote with my husband that night who commented, “That’s sweet. I wonder why all these girls are in love with him.”
Aside from the fact that he is the best looking little boy ever, in my humble opinion, “It’s probably because he doesn’t pull hair and tell them they have cooties like the other boys.”, was my response.
It was a simple comment that really got me thinking about what other “normal” little boy things he doesn’t do; and that I don’t want him to do.
He doesn’t reject affection from me
As he nears six years old, my boy still climbs up on my lap to snuggle. He still asks to be picked up and held. He still loves lots of kisses and tight hugs. I realize that this alone doesn’t make him unique from most others his age, but he even allows and welcomes this in public. There’s no, “MooOOOoomm, my friends are watching!”
He doesn’t tease or bully
He loves to play with other kids and we are working hard at learning how to ask kids to play with him. He doesn’t discriminate as to who he does and doesn’t want to play with. He may not pursue a relationship with someone who’s been mean to him in the past, but aren’t we all like that?
This does not mean that he is a perfect boy, he still fights with his sisters over who’s turn it is or who gets that toy, etc., but I’ve never seen or heard him call anyone a bad name or refuse their friendship because they don’t measure up to his standards. He won’t always accept the invitation from other kids, but he’s not mean about it.
He is genuine
My son will not craft a fake persona to take advantage of a situation. He won’t act nice to you then badmouth you behind your back. He is who he is and he likes what he likes. Perhaps he could be a little more subtle in his declarations of what he doesn’t like, but that is another area that we are working on.
As parents of young ones, we long for our children to grow up and get to the next stage (potty training, school, not needing a babysitter, and so on) all the while lamenting the loss of innocence and hard life-lessons which they endure along the way. I remember my mother telling me a few years ago that the hardest part of having grown children is that you can no longer fix their hurts with a simple kiss and hug. Those are days that I do not look forward to.
I’ve always said that my biggest problem with autism is that I don’t want my son’s life to be any harder than it needs to be, but somedays I wonder if maybe there aren’t harder times he may be able to avoid? I realize that the last statement is simply a mother’s hope and not a fact. He’ll still endure hurt and pain, regardless of autism. But don’t we all wish we could just keep them in the bubble just a little longer?
Raising a special needs child is difficult. Raising more than one is difficult. Raising a special needs child while trying to stay “fair” to his neurotypical siblings…almost impossible.
That’s right, we have a slightly more sensitive word to describe the siblings of children on the spectrum. Neurotypical is preferential to calling them our normal kids. Naturally, that implies that our ASD child is abnormal and that’s not a path we want to venture down. So we say neurotypical with a slight awkwardness, but it’s the best phrasing that we have right now.
Whatever special need your child may have consumes significantly more time, financial and emotional commitment than their siblings require. For those of us with children on the spectrum, it’s often an invisible cost as you don’t see the appointments the same way you would see a wheelchair or other equipment. Knowing the financial toll this takes on us gives me an extra-large dose of sympathy for the parents that also have to invest in equipment and/or medication for their children.
So what is the cost?
Appointments. Getting there (especially if you are not right in the city) demands fuel and wear and tear on your vehicle. It costs us time away from work and/or childcare costs for siblings. We have been fortunate enough to have friends step in to help us with the childcare, which we are so very thankful for. Depending on your other children, you may or may not be able to bring them along as all your attention needs to be on the appointment itself.
Therapy. So far we have been blessed enough to have not had to pay for our son’s therapy. However, he is quickly aging out of the free stuff and any further therapy will be out of pocket. It’s expensive and waitlisted, but we will do what we have to do to keep him moving forward. So the renovations take a back seat. The old vehicle gets limped along rather than replaced. When your child is Autistic, his progress is more important than the other stuff.
Home therapy. We homeschool, so we spend time teaching all of our children, but our son gets extra time because he needs extra time. We include his sisters when we can. Especially when it comes to social and life skills. Some of it, though, just has to be one on one.
Emotional investment. Naturally, we are emotionally invested in all our children. But our son needs more. If we are out and about we have to plan around him (we can’t go anywhere overstimulating or with people in costumes, etc.) and that’s not always fair to the girls.
We’ve talked a lot about how great it would be to take our kids to DisneyWorld; but for the foreseeable future it is not an option. Our son is TERRIFIED of mascots/people in big costumes. Spending time with friends on farms or acreages requires a tight leash on the kids because of his propensity to wander.
Then there is the exhaustion that comes with sleepless nights, emotional days, and the overall alertness that we must have to all of his surroundings. So who gets the short end of the parental stick?
We do our best to balance everyone, but many days our best feels lacking.
Our oldest has many responsibilities that most 7 year olds don’t. If we’re at the park, she has to help keep an eye out for him. If she gets a talking toy as a birthday gift, she can generally only play with it when he’s not around (sensory issues). Lately, he even wants her to fall asleep with him most nights – although that one is her choice.
So, how’s a mom to balance it all? An awful lot of prayer, for starters. For God to help the girls to understand their brother’s needs and be sensitive to them. To not feel jealous or resentful. And for wisdom for us as parents.
From time to time, I have special trips with our oldest. We’ve done girls weekends away with family. We’ve done spa days (haircuts) or lunch dates. Last year we even saved up to fly to my hometown to attend a friend’s wedding.
These gestures certainly help, but are also easily forgotten when she’s feeling neglected. She sometimes needs to be reminded of the freedoms that she gets and her brother doesn’t. I’d love to sit here and tell you that we have it all figured out and are doing a great job of balancing all 3 children, but that’s simply not the case.
As any parent, special needs or not, we are doing the best we know how to at any given moment. That’s about all that we can do.
A beautiful thing happened last night. A dream that I had long given up on came true; my son said, “I love you, mama.” to me completely on his own!
He’s said it before with prompting, or copying his sisters, but never on his own.
I was laying down with him, trying to help him sleep, gave him a kiss on the forehead and he said it.
“I love you, mama.”
His bed may have been cramped, what with sharing it with every stuffy in the room, and crazy hot (he sleeps with a heavy sleeping bag AND a weighted denim blanket) but in that moment, there was no where in the world I would have rather been.
I can remember the first time my girls uttered the same phrase, and it was heartwarming and special and one of those moments that I treasured in my heart. I’m not trying to downplay their accomplishments, but I knew the moments would come with them, it was just a matter of “when”. With my boy, it has always been an “if”.
Two weeks ago was another leap.
One of the most heartbreaking aspects of where my son is on the spectrum, is his inability to communicate pain and sickness. Again, the girls can tell me if it’s a tummy ache or a scraped knee. With him, however, if I can’t actually see the incident it’s little more than a guessing game. This particular day, he was upset about a “boo-boo” – not uncommon. I asked, as I always do if I can’t see it, where the boo-boo was. I expected him to simply restate that he was suffering from a boo-boo when he surprised me again.
“On my arm.”
This ability to explain his pain has just opened up a whole new world to our family. No more guesses (well, not as many), no more frustration. He can say it and I can help him!
Your child’s stumbling block may not be words. Perhaps it’s trying a new food, sitting in a waiting room and NOT needing the iPad, tolerating a public event without headphones on. Whatever it may be, celebrate each tiny victory as though your child has just won Olympic gold. Quite likely, he/she has worked harder to reach this milestone than many medalists!
In a month from now, when the memory has faded and this new step is part of everyday life, remember it when your child seems to be reverting. Those days when you’re exhausted from the fight. When your already shattered heart sustains more damage because it’s just not fair that someone so wonderful should have to work so very hard to do the things everyone else takes for granted. On those hard days, remember the good. Don’t just remember what he achieved that day, remember his smile because he KNEW what a breakthrough he’d made. Remember that for that moment, your heart was whole and soaring.
Remember that moment and start looking ahead to the next one. Never stop dreaming big, big dreams for your kids.
Remember that the victories you’ve already had, you probably never expected. The one you’re not expecting in the future will happen.
My mother told me once that you never stop being “mom”, it’s just that when the kids get bigger you can’t fix their problems with a hug and a kiss anymore.
As a parent of young children, I love that for the most part I can still kiss away most of their biggest life problems. Some days, I AM my oldest daughters’ biggest life problem! Don’t call the authorities on me, but she has to pick up after herself – and she’s the only kid in the whole wide world with such a burden to bear. Her brother and sister NEVER have to pick up their toys; she has to do ev-er-ee-thing!
Mom – stop laughing! I was never THAT dramatic…was I?
My magical, healing kiss still cures the worst of the booboos. A hug can generally stop the tears. And on the odd occasion when the hurt is more than mom can handle, we call in the specialist. Dad. No surgeon matches his skill level when it comes to removing splinters and the like.
I know that these days are fleeting and therefore I cherish them.
My mother told me once that you never stop being “mom”, it’s just that when the kids get bigger you can’t fix their problems with a hug and a kiss anymore.
I pray against the days when my kids suffer their first broken hearts, betrayal by a friend, not getting the award they worked so hard for, etc. I also pray that they are not the heartbreakers or betrayers.
As the mother of a special needs child, there is another day coming that I dread.
I so clearly remember the day I stood in my front yard with my cousin as he threw rocks at the girl across the road and called her a retard. I also remember telling him to stop. She and I were in the same grade throughout school and became friends after that.
It’s not that I’m ashamed of myself for that time because I didn’t participate in his awful behaviour. The problem is that now I am so afraid of my son being the lone kid across the street having rocks and ugly words hurled at him.
Times have changed, you say. We’re more educated and less judgemental about special needs now, you think.
People blame vaccines, environment, and just about everything else they can for why these babies are the way they are as if they are some kind of punishment or error. We want a reason for whatever is “wrong” with these people! It may not be a literal rock, but our words can cause damage that six weeks in a cast just can’t heal.
This summer, I had the privilege of helping out with a fun children’s event as a group leader. There was quite a bit of activity and excitement and my son got a little overwhelmed. That’s when the moment I’ve been dreading for 5 years happened.
This boy, a few years older than mine, grimaced and said, in that snooty little voice, “What’s WRONG with him?!”
After taking a second to retract my mama bear claws, I was thankful that another child needed me and I didn’t have to answer that question. The remainder of the event was tainted with the same attitude. “Why can’t he talk?”, “What’s his problem?” and so on. To be clear, these were not the poorly worded inquiries of a genuinely curious little scamp. These were the snotty, judgemental slurs of a little boy who thought the world revolved around him (as evidenced in his comments to and about everyone else, and his behaviour whenever he didn’t win a game).
So, what’s a mom to do? I didn’t sit him down and explain that my son’s brain just works differently than his own. I didn’t have time. There were 6 other children needing my help at the same time. None of these other 6 children had a problem with my son’s behaviour.
So we got through that day, but what about the days to come? I can’t keep my boy in a bubble. Our goal as parents for him is to do whatever we can to make him as self-sufficient as possible. To enable him to be an active and contributing member of society. As much as I detest the thought of it, that also means teaching him to deal with the verbal slings and arrows. To see himself as a child of God, and not as a diagnosis or blight on society.
From my perspective, I’d rather you ask us the genuine questions than make assumptions. Don’t walk on eggshells in fear of causing a meltdown. Not every meltdown is sensory related; sometimes he’s just a brat like any other kid. And quite frankly, each kid on the spectrum has a different set of triggers which may change day to day.
Use a little common sense, of course. Don’t blow a whistle as loud as you can right by their ears – but don’t do that to anyone!
Personally, when I take my son for therapy, I am sure not to wear perfume or scented products; but that’s when I know that I’ll be in a building full of people with sensory issues.
And if you’re not comfortable enough to not ask me about my son, then just don’t. Treat him like a kid and we’ll all get along just fine.
And can you do me one more favour? Teach your kids that whatever the other kids’ differences are, they’re all still people who just want to be loved.
I have never been one of those people who thrive on pressure or do their best work on a deadline. If you are one of those people – I admire you, but I don’t understand you. Not even a little bit.
Sure, a deadline can cause me to get things done because they have to be, but I can assure you that it won’t be my best work. I can also assure you that you don’t want to be around me during, or for a while following a time crunch. I get snappy and grumpy and more than a little yelly (it’s a word in my mom vocabulary). Even I don’t want to be around me then.
Just over 3 years ago, my oldest daughter caused me to take a good hard look at myself under pressure and how I affected those around me.
I have a bit of a side business during the Christmas Season where I bake and sell goodies. At this point I had not yet learned how to schedule orders properly and often committed to more orders per day than I should have.
This particular day I was extra snappy, grumpy and yelly and my then 3 year old just wanted my attention. I snapped at her far too harshly. She turned on her heels and headed straight for our bathroom. What I heard out of her mouth next was not only adorable, but wonderfully humbling.
“Jesus,” she began, “I’m getting really frustrated with mom. I need some help here!”
She walked directly toward me with a confidence and purpose that I was unaware a 3 year old could possess.
“Mom, we need to pray. Now!”
And we did. And I repented to my Saviour and then to my daughter. Both forgave me instantly and I knew that something needed to change.
I would love to tell you that I woke up the next morning a new woman and from that moment on my life was chaos free…nope. It has been slow. It has backslidden more than once. It is still a work in progress, but progress none the less. One step at a time. No quick fixes or one size fits all solutions.
Here is how it started for me:
Trimming the Excess
The summer following the above mentioned episode my husband and I sat down and took a good hard look at our finances and realized how we were being nickeled and dimed into living paycheque to paycheque. We looked at all the subscriptions we had and how little we really read any of them.
It was fun to get the latest issue of a magazine in the mail or the newspaper delivered daily, but we weren’t getting our money’s worth out of them. We would mindlessly flip through and read less than 10% of the actual publication. We cut out all but one and that one has become one of my husband’s birthday gifts since the renewal time coincides with his birthday.
My husband quit smoking. I don’t need to explain ALL the benefits of that one! I had quit previously when we decided to start a family.
We also took a look at how much he was spending almost daily at the local convenience store. $2 this day and $5 the next was adding up to $300/month! He started taking water with him to work in a giant thermos and cutting back on the other impulse items.
We cut down our cell packages. Huge savings there and we still had all the minutes that we needed.
The most difficult cut for us was our satellite TV. We had so many excuses but eventually came to the conclusion that BECAUSE it was so hard for us to give up was precisely why we needed to. TV had far too tight a grip on us.
We signed up for Netflix and after a bit of an adjustment period, I can honestly say we don’t miss having the dish. We certainly don’t miss commercials!
With this step done, we were saving hundreds of dollars each month. The benefit was not only monetary, but this relieved a great financial strain which relieved an emotional strain between us.
Guarding Our Schedule
A few years ago I had a couple of girlfriends over for coffee and they looked at the calendar on my fridge and commented how nice it must be to have so much free time. It is not by accident or laziness that our calendar stays clearer than most people’s with young children. We work hard to keep it that way.
There are so many reasons to guard your time, and your reasons will not mirror mine. My husband and I were both blessed to grow up in Christian homes and it is of utmost importance for our children to have the same blessing. God comes first in our house!
That doesn’t mean that we spend every waking minute in bible study and prayer and live perfectly wholesome lives. Not even close. However, Sunday morning worship service is ALWAYS part of our schedule. We only miss church if we are out of town or very, very sick. Going to church doesn’t make us Super Christians, but it recharges us, teaches us, connects us to God and to others. My heart always grieves when I hear of families who have decided to trade church time for family time.
“Sunday morning is our only time to just relax and be together” is a common phrase.
I’ll tell you something – those two things are meant to go hand in hand! Relax together in God’s presence.
We also don’t over schedule our children.
Our oldest 2 attend BG Club twice yearly for 10 weeks at a time and we as parents love it and our children love it. If it conflicts with other activities, the other activities lose. Our oldest also does soccer in the spring. Our son tried it last year and did not have a good experience so he opted out this year.
I know my big girl would love dance, but it is more of a financial and time commitment than my husband and I are willing to give and she is just fine with that. We don’t feel like our children will lose out on their childhood if they don’t have EVERY experience available to them. Our belief is that they will gain more by having parents who are present and happy than they would by being rushed to and fro and having parents who are financially and emotionally drained.
I also have one day a week that I do my house cleaning. Of course I clean every day, but the dusting, floor washing, nooks and crannies cleaning happens every Thursday. My close friends know that if they show up unannounced they will see me in my cleaning dungarees with hair poorly pulled back and my kids probably still in pyjamas. They have been warned.
Again, I don’t like chaos and this ritual helps me conquer that.
A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place…Even Papers
Oh vile paperwork. My nemesis!
Bills that have been paid, but need to be filed. An expense claim sent in to our insurance provider, awaiting payment. Home school marking/corrections.
Papers are so thin, but can create such an overwhelming presence in my home. It was so easy to just close the door.
A few months ago, I saw this thing on Pinterest. I tweaked it slightly but I now have a small hanging file box with folders for each day of the month and each month of the year. If the water bill needs to be paid on the 10th, it goes into the file dated the 10th. If I’m waiting for my expense cheque to come back I will file a note for the expected day to follow up if I haven’t received it yet.
Our mortgage renewal comes due in August so I have a note in the August folder to deal with that.
I go through the folder of the appropriate day and deal only with what is in there. When a new month starts I open that month’s folder and file everything according to the day it requires attention and start all over.
I also use this for my daughter’s lessons. She is in Kindergarten right now so it works. I know I will need something more complex as the years go on, but that’s a job for Future Wendy!
This is working and takes up minimal space!
I don’t mind cooking, but I have great difficulty coming up with ideas of what to make each day (I call my mother often and apologize for groaning at whatever she made for supper). This usually leads to procrastination which leads to either convenience foods or a quick trip to the grocery store. Impromptu trips to the store also usually lead to unplanned and unnecessary spending. Ugh.
I have admired the meal planners out there for a while now but was intimidated by the idea of it. I had tried before and failed, often because when I looked at what I had planned for the day I didn’t feel like making that. So I wouldn’t.
Four weeks ago I finally committed to not only planning our meals, but also STICKING WITH THE PLAN!
Guess what? I am loving it.
I do NOT post on a fancy chalkboard or other Pinterest inspired piece of art what the meal plan is. That only invites “helpful” suggestions from my family which leads to frustration (see: grumpy, yelly). Nope, she who cooks, plans.
I also do NOT let my feelings take me off course. If meatloaf is on the list, meatloaf shall be on the table even if I’m in the mood for chicken.
One weekend I didn’t get around to planning and for three days I was back into frustration and lack of ideas. I sat down and planned out the remainder of the week and the pressure just melted away.
Another beautiful benefit is that, because I plan with great intentions and before the weariness of the week gets to me, I plan healthier meals. Because I stick to the plan, we eat healthier meals.
Wants vs. Needs
Marketers are just so talented and blurring those lines for us, aren’t they? And I find so many of their lines easy to swallow.
Just recently I was flipping through the Home Hardware flyer and saw a remarkable machine that combines and 12 cup coffee maker with a single cup brewing system that uses K cups.
Gasp. Where has this been my whole life? I. Need. This.
Why do I need this? Because it would take up 2 less inches on my counter than my existing 12 cup coffee maker and Keurig….that I already own. Hmmmm. I want to pay $80 for a machine that replaces 2 machines that I already own. Both of which are in perfect working condition.
But I could sell the other 2 machines for probably $30 so then the new one would really only cost me $50. Well, realistically I’d probably be better off to just put the other 2 in the camper….
Seriously. These thoughts went through my head. More than once!
This mindset shift is a tough one for me. I could come up with so many excuses why my want is justified, or why the purchase is really a need. The truth of the matter is that I just need to think things through more, and take more things to God in prayer. You may think that praying about buying a coffee maker is silly, but God cares about every aspect of our lives. Shopping included.
Saying yes to this purchase would have meant a no to something else either now or further down the line. That something else could be anything from extra grocery money, to clothes for the kids, curriculum or even just extra padding in the savings account.
That is the question I ask myself now before purchases (most times). If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to later?
It’s taken me 3 years to implement these changes and none of them happened simultaneously. Each was a step at a time with enough time between to get used to the changes and let them become our new normal. There are more changes coming, but not until we’re ready for them.
How do you keep life simple? I’d love to hear what has worked for you!
*This post is not intended to garner sympathy or attention for myself, but rather to help you understand what it feels like to sink into/be in despair. If you have never experienced this (be thankful), my hope is that this will help you understand those around you who are struggling with this darkness.
We KNOW that life isn’t is bad as it seems in those times, but we feel stifled by the despair nonetheless. A hug is more helpful than being told to “suck it up”.*
I’m sitting in a hospital bed right now, fighting two battles.
The first battle is and infection in my foot. It started Wednesday afternoon and took a hold of me swiftly and severely! At first I thought I had caught a crazy stomach bug – I’ll spare you the details. My husband came home from work to find me under 5 heavy blankets shivering violently. After he added a heating pad my body calmed down a bit.
The next morning I saw the doctor because my foot was getting painful and I knew there was more to this than the flu. He gave me antibiotics and strict instructions to monitor things closely and go into Emergency if there is even a hint of spreading.
10PM that night we called a friend over to stay with our sleeping kids while my husband took me into the hospital where I was started on Intravenous antibiotics. Perfect, I thought, a couple days and I’ll be as good as new! We left the hospital with crutches and an appointment for my next dose of IV.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the next morning did not find my foot better. I was hoping for some improvement, at least a little. Deep down inside of me, the other battle was beginning.
This was Friday morning now and my weekend consisted of laying on the couch with my foot up and going to the hospital 3 times daily for IV. By now the pain had subsided (mostly) but the swelling was not going down.
Monday morning I saw the Doctor again and he pleaded with me to let him admit me into the hospital.
“What about my kids? I have to look after my kids!”
“Please think about it. We should be seeing better results by now.” he gave one last plea.
I hobbled to my van and texted my hubby what had just been said, put the phone down and drove to the hospital for dose #11.
The nurse gave me the same pleas. My phone buzzed. I opened the text from hubby telling me he will take the week off so I can get better. I got one of the good ones!
I relented and the process started to get me all set up in my tiny cube of a room. Sterile and windowless. That is how my soul was beginning to feel too. The ticking of the clock and the hum of machines to keep me company I was feeling forgotten. I’ve had visitors and that has been great, but where has God been for the last 6 days?
I chastised myself for letting my emotions get the better of me. I know – I KNOW – that He has not abandoned me, but the invisible infection of my heart was telling me differently.
Maybe if you were a better person, the infection hissed, this wouldn’t be happening to you. It’s because of every bad thing you’ve ever done. You deserve this.
You might as well give up now. They’re not telling you everything – this is way more serious than they’re letting on and now your kids have to grow up without a mom. Just pull the blanket over your head and go to sleep. You can’t fight it – just give up.
STOP IT! I scream inwardly. Lies. All lies!
Not that I’ve never done bad things, I have and do and will because I’m human. But I’m a forgiven human washed clean by the blood of Christ!
But there are moments when “standing on the promises” are not enough and the infection overwhelms me. Last night I struggled, but held it together. Today I couldn’t. Today is Tuesday which makes tomorrow one week since this started and I’m no better off physically and definitely worse off in my heart.
Today I have cried. A lot. Today I am not strong. The nurses notice and are being extra delicate with me. Today Christ’s strength is made perfect in my weakness [2 Corinthians 12:9].
In my darker times of depression, I find myself running to God almost superstitiously. Maybe if I pray just right, or read the right number of chapters of my bible, etc. then God will heal me. I know that’s not how it works. He’s not a genie in a lamp that needs to be rubbed exactly 3 times then will grant me my wish. I’m believing for healing. I’m expecting for healing. But I’m listening for what God has to teach me in this too.
As I type this, I’m listening to “Blessings” by Laura Storey. If you’ve never heard it, please take a moment to listen. This song has seen me through many a dark time and it is perfect for where I am right now.
So where does this leave me?
I will fight, I will persevere because I know I am not fighting alone. God is with me. Family and friends are praying for me. I’m anticipating a few more days here yet. The battle rages on, but ultimately it has already been won.
Today is the following Monday. Almost a week since I wrote this last post. I have been out of the hospital since Thursday, but have since developed an allergy to one of the medications. The beauty is, I can laugh at that now. It’s a testimony to how far God has brought me out of this pit.
Last Tuesday, when I wrote the original post, I did one of the hardest things possible when in such a deep depression – I reached out.
I called a few of my trusted friends and told them that I wasn’t doing well at all and that I couldn’t cope on my own. These people prayed for me, and they prayed hard. That afternoon already saw a huge improvement in my mood.
My husband brought me some of my favourite comedies to watch and smuggled in some popcorn for me. All the little things like this definitely helped pull me out of my pit, but ultimately it was God who healed the infection in my soul. He also continues to heal the infection in my foot and each day sees great progress!
Remember when you were in grade 12 and everyone was giving you advice on what to do with the rest of your life? What school to go to, what career to pursue and so on?
Or when you were dating and people who cared about you tried to advise you on who to go out with and who not to? How to behave on your first date or when you meet his or her parents?
Then you eventually settled down, got engaged and started planning the wedding. “Oh, not those flowers! Great Aunt Ida is allergic and even though she probably won’t attend she might and we’d hate to give her an attack!”
“In my day, we didn’t register for such extravagant gifts.”
“You’re choosing that song to walk down the aisle to? Are you too good
for The Wedding March?”
Then you weren’t even out of the reception before everyone starting telling you how to be successful in marriage and when babies should come.
And then the babies start coming…and the advice flows freely once again.
“Don’t eat that when you’re pregnant.”
“Just rub a little whiskey on baby’s gums to soothe the teething pain. Helps baby sleep too”
I’ve heard it all, and so have you. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve probably even dished out some of this one of a kind, well-meaning advice. If I’ve ever been this “generous” with you, I’m sorry! To my nephew who graduates this year, I’m extra sorry because I know that while telling him to ignore everyone and figure out what he wants for himself, I’m pretty sure I’ve thrown some of my own wisdom (and I use the term loosely) into our conversations.
Most of the time, these “pearls” are annoying. In certain moments they can be downright maddening. However, I truly believe that in most instances, they are given with the very best of intentions.
My first baby was a petite little thing. After 5 days of struggling, both she and I got the whole nursing thing figured out. She continued to grow and develop, but not fast enough for some people’s liking. I was told often to put her on formula because she was starving to death. She had regular checkups with the Doctor and Public Health Nurse, both of whom assured me that she was right on track. I continued with what I thought was best and she is a thriving 6 year old.
My second baby took to nursing immediately, but wasn’t gaining weight. At 6 weeks he was below birthweight so the Doctor and I both thought it best to put him on formula. He began to grow and thrive and I felt confident with my decision.
Would you believe that the very same people who told me that my daughter was starving and should be on the bottle told me that my son was being cheated out of the benefits of breastmilk and if I was any kind of mother I would be nursing him?!
I’ve always been a heavy girl. I’ve had more “helpful” advice on that subject alone than one blog can handle! “Do you really need that?” can be one of the most destructive phrases to utter to someone who already struggles in this. You want to know how I feel when someone says that to me? It does NOT make me want to put down the piece of cake and hop on the treadmill; it makes me want to eat all the remaining pieces of cake…with ice cream.
When people first heard that I had met this guy online, I was cautioned continuously that he was probably a serial killer. I assured everyone that I was being smart about it and wasn’t meeting him in the middle of the night at an abandoned warehouse.
Not everybody agrees with the way my husband and I live our life. Certain people have made that very clear!
One family member has suggested more than once that my husband work up north for weeks at a time to make more money. We have discussed this and decided that our time together as a family is more valuable to us than a bigger paycheque. I have friends whose husbands work away for stretches and that works for them. They have made the best choice for their family.
Then we told a few people that we were trying for baby #3. “You’re crazy! Three is the hardest number of kids to handle.”
“You already have a boy and a girl, why mess with the perfect family?”
“You’re going to homeschool???? Aren’t you worried about socialization?”
“Homeschooling will make your kids resent you! I could never do it.”
“Maybe if you were a little harder on your kids….”
“Maybe if you weren’t so hard on your kids…”
You’ve heard all the lines, you’ve probably even uttered one of two of them. You’re just trying to help. I know that and that’s why I can usually just force a smile, say thank you, and pay my kids to cry make an excuse to leave quickly.
I mentioned in a previous post, that we started seeing the signs of Autism in our son from the beginning. Others saw it too and tried to point them out to us. This is where the “help” can be especially hurtful.
Coming to terms with the fact that your child may not be “typical” is one of the hardest things a parent can do. It has nothing to do with loving your child less, or being ashamed of them. It has everything to do with knowing how difficult life will be for someone so innocent and fragile. It has everything to do with your fear that you are not going to be enough as a parent to give this child everything he or she needs to have the best life possible.
Can I offer some well-meaning advice to you (the irony is delicious)?
If you know someone in this situation, please don’t point out the “obvious signs”. We see them, we know. We are kept awake at night worrying about our child’s future. What we need to hear is that our child is cute, and perfect (because every person is a miracle!) and that you love them.
When that diagnosis comes, an “I told you so” or “I always wondered” can be downright harmful.
“Okay. He’s so lucky to have you guys as parents.”
“How is everybody doing with this information?”
“I love you all.”
Those are the things we need to hear.
We’ve already read every study. We’ve already looked into the latest miracle treatment. Yes, we’d love for you to babysit once in a while so we can get a break. No, you don’t need to try to “fix” him while you babysit.
I know you mean well. I know that you have never intended for your words to wound. I know that I would be heartbroken to find out that my “help” was hurtful to someone I care about. So, I resolve to watch my words. Better yet, to have significantly less words in most circumstances. I promise to do my best to ask you what you need instead of telling you.
I’m not going to be perfect at this, but please forgive me. You know that I mean well!
I’d love to hear some of your favourite pieces of advice; either given or received! Please leave a comment, and remember to keep it respectful.
As far as my husband is concerned, this phrase ranks right up there with, “We need to talk.” or “Do these jeans make my butt look big?”!
Most husbands would just roll their eyes, maybe groan a little wondering what food they’ll be eating out of a mason jar for the next week. My husband, however, would LOVE IT if that was his biggest inconvenience.
Unfortunately for him, he knows that my latest idea will be HIS newest project. I have some talents; baking, writing, quoting movie/TV lines to fit anywhere in a conversation, and I tell some of the driest and lamest jokes around (yes, I am proud of that one)! Working with my hands? Other than the baking and writing… “not so much” Mad About You (see what I did there?).
So because God didn’t gift me with a talent for building or crafts or any of that stuff, He gifted me with my husband. I can SEE the project in my head. I can carefully plan out the steps. I can get all the supplies together and watch tutorial after tutorial…but my hands just can’t do it! Hubby, on the other hand, not only has the talent to build whatever I want, but to translate the vaguest and most poorly thought out concept from my head into an actual THING that looks like the thing it’s supposed to be!
He amazes me time and time again. Not only that he can MAKE what I kinda sorta think I want, but that he can make it better than I even conceptualized it! Not to mention that he actually has the patience to do the harebrained projects that I come up with in the first place!
Two years ago, I asked for some shelving in the basement storage area. I got a full U-Shaped storage area with shelves built specific to the storage containers I have so that nothing has to be stacked on top of anything else, right up to the ceiling. It also included a bar to hang out of season coats for the next time we need them so if winter hit sooner than expected, I wouldn’t have to tear apart the basement hurriedly looking for jackets and ski pants for the kids.
Shortly after that, I asked for a basic stand to put my front load washer and dryer on (I’m way too cheap to pay retail prices for those!) so that the kids would quit pressing the buttons and washing or drying nothing. I got fantastic, strong, steel frames that custom fit my set, had rubber feet so as not to damage my floor, and space to store my laundry baskets on those rare occasions that all the laundry got put away.
Now, there are some Pinterest ideas that I have successfully completed. My life/bills/home school filing system, marshmallow and Fruit Loops rainbow snacks for playschool, many of our suppers originated with a Pinterest search. Those things I can do, but I still wouldn’t
have had the ideas on my own.
I also have friends who are crazy talented, including the one who made my family this amazing growth chart this summer. It is admired (and often coveted) by everyone who comes into this house. It not only charts the growth of my children, but
distracts guests from the, uh, lived-in look that is my house most days.
I have a sister who can create the most beautiful art with the photographs she takes. She also has the ability to host amazing events and make her guests all feel special and unique and loved.
My other sister is able to really peer into peoples’ circumstances and see their needs. Then she is the type to “do the work” to meet those needs for people with no thought of the cost to herself. Need a driveway shoveled but feeling under the weather? She has it done before you even think to ask. She also has the gift of being able to talk me down in my more anxious moments, or cheer my up in my depressed moments. No easy task!
My mom bakes and knits amazing things; my dad is the baby whisperer (he has soothed more fussy babies than I can count, including my own).
My oldest daughter can take ANYTHING from around the house and create some type of craft or instrument out of it. I could go on and on and on about the talented people that I know, and I’m sure that you could too. I just love the variety that God has placed in us!
Just like God enabled my husband to be talented where I am not, and vice versa, He brings others into our lives to walk along side of us and help us do what we can’t do on our own. Sometimes that means that our friend creates something beautiful for our home. Maybe a family member helps us develop a talent so that we can not only do things on our own, but also bless others with our talents. We are not created to go through life relying only on ourselves.
Neither are we created to rely solely on others. God wants us to depend on Him! Other people can fill some of our needs some of the time, but only God can “complete” us. People will let us down, whether intentionally or not, but God won’t. He can’t. It’s not who He is.
Our talents and abilities come from God. We are to use them for His glory. To help or encourage those whom he has placed in our lives. To help others see and develop the talents He has placed within them.
And don’t think for one second that you only get one set of abilities and that’s it. Ask anyone who’s known my for the last 15ish years and they have heard me say that teaching is absolutely the worst possible thing I could be asked to do. I loathed it, I was terrible at it and the students suffered. Whether it was Sunday School or anything – it was not a good idea to put me in that job.
Three years ago my daughter started BG Club and I signed on as a helper in her class – crowd control for preschoolers, I can handle that! In the third or fourth week, the teacher had to step down because of a change in her work schedule and I was thrust into the position. I begrudgingly (oh so begrudgingly) endured it for the next three sessions. I took one session off because I had a newborn and thought that was it. I was free!
“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in” (you knew that was coming!). But something happened. God changed my heart and gave me a love for these kids and this club and suddenly I was able to teach and teach well.
If He can make me love and be good at something I had detested most of my life, he can develop talents in anybody!
Now I continue to teach BG Club and home school my daughter.
What are your talents? What talents do you want God to develop in you? Who has he placed in your life with abilities to complement yours? More importantly, whose life has he placed you in? And how can you be a blessing to them?