Young, naïve, and stubborn. Those were the words that described me when I walked through the door of our two-bedroom apartment, holding all seven pounds of our first newborn. Seven years later, I became aware that I was a special needs parent to that same green-eyed boy who has my smile. The best part of being a special needs parent with four kids is that each year a part of me sheds its unneeded skin like the snake we recently bought for Luke as a reward for completing his cognitive therapy. The small things that I just “expected” as I walked into that front door eleven and a half years ago are now massive victories.
With the Christmas season upon us, my heart is with Mary and my thoughts are with baby Jesus. I’m inspired! Let’s touch on one of the many blessings that I’ve found come with being a special needs parent: lower expectations and higher amounts of joy.
“I’ve heard so many ‘I love you’s and ‘I’m so glad we are spending time together’s. Luke has been nothing but helpful and kind to his brother.”
Luke! Our Luke, who gets anxious around children younger than himself, went on his very first camping trip that included his younger brother in addition to my husband this past weekend. Things like manners, emotional understanding, and situational awareness do not come naturally to a child with autism. And being that autism isn’t some sort of mental sickness that can suddenly disappear, or kids can grow out of, it was up to us to find a way to help these situations become easier to understand and recognize for him. I’ve noticed such a change in him since we switched his psychiatrist. We are riding the waves of hormones that come with the beginnings of puberty, but we feel like he is growing into such an admirable young man with each wave. He surprises us. “What if he feels like his special time with dad is encroached upon?” or “Patrick is going to be scared. He’s only five and will need special care on the campout. What if Luke loses his patience with him?” These worries flitted through our minds as the Suburban drove away. It’s unexplainable, though. All of what our prior experience told us about Luke was thrown out the window during the campout as he was the perfect big brother and helpful son. No feelings of encroachment. No tantrums. No emotional outbursts. It was a miracle. He, his little brother, and dad had the time of their lives- even with the overtired emotions of a five-year-old bursting through at some points.
Another time he surprised us was when we allowed him to use his cash to buy some Christmas decorations at the grocery store next door. Apparently, he lost his ten dollars on the bike ride there. He walked through the door of our home in a panic, and I was afraid of the worst- my autistic son had a meltdown, by himself, in the checkout line. I shouldn’t have let him go by himself. I asked him steadily what had happened. Through his tears and after blowing his nose, he told me that he realized someone “must have stolen it” and asked the cashier to hold his items.
“Did you have a meltdown in the store?”
“No, mom. I hid my big feelings until I came home.”
Wow! Another miracle! I explained to him that the cash was not stolen. It probably just fell out of his pocket. My husband took him later that evening, and the kind cashier was waiting with his items. His patience and poise paid off! My autistic eleven-year-old had composure in a stressful moment! By himself! I just could not get over it. All day, my husband and I sang his praises and thanked God for that moment of victory. It was an invaluable lesson in patience for him to learn: Eventually, everything works out in the end. Maybe not the way we planned, but God provides a way.
Isn’t it wonderful, as special needs parents, how we have these moments as gifts from God? These moments that we may have just brushed over and “expected” are now added gifts to our lives! What a blessing it is to have our eyes opened to see miracles that aren’t commonly seen! I pray that you, too, can have these victories and soak them in as much-needed consolation. We may not meet the lofty expectations set by our former selves, but we are given the only thing we really need: love from God and joy in the small stuff! Merry Christmas!
A native of Cajun, South Louisiana, Rachel is a wife & stay-at-home autism mom with 4 kiddos living life enthusiastically in Allen, TX. She blogs at rosesforchrist.wixsite.com/rosesforchrist