Someone recently asked me if I adopted through the special needs program or the healthy program. I hesitated as I answered, because I wasn’t sure how I wanted to answer in order to be appropriate, and knowing it wasn’t an appropriate question in the first place. Many of you know that my daughter has some medical needs that we have been working on treating and diagnosing properly. The person asking me this does not know my children or know that I have a child with “special needs.” The first thing that comes to my mind in response to that question now that I couldn’t think of at the time was that ALL children have special needs. I don’t mean to say this to minimize the needs that some of our children have. Instead, what I mean is that each of our children has a different need within their soul that can only be met by you, their parent. It’s a magnet that sometimes sends us in polar opposites if we don’t respond right, but that can also connect us in deep ways we never thought possible when we manage to respond in the right way.
My son is one of those kids who was born to test my limits. Kids memorize our buttons and learn how and when to push them and he is no different. He is that kid who one minute can send me cracking up and rolling on the floor in laughter, but also possesses the same level of passion to push me in the other direction to where I can’t see straight. He knows how to make me cry and his 4.5 year old mind doesn’t possess the ability to stop himself sometimes. He usually is remorseful and throws out the, “I love you’s” immediately afterward trying to undo the damage. Does he have a special need? Well, yes he does, but not in the traditional way. He just needs us as his parents to show him how to grow and mature into a boy with a purpose in life…like every other kid in this world. We’ve been through the gamut of “normal” challenging toddler struggles with this one: hugs that turned into biting friends at school, or say the refusal to wear jeans or eat meat as early as age 2. We actually offer him extra vegetables if he will eat his meat. I asked the pediatrician at what point I should be concerned about the biting and he said, “Never.” Food for thought, right, because my first instinct is to find the problem and try to fix it? But what if there is no real problem except that I can’t get my magnet to work? With the exception of the No good, Horrible, Terrible Very Bad Daycare, he first attended, his teachers have used his spunk for good, and have helped him onto the road to using his power for good not evil. Coming from a special needs and social services background I have been around more children with “special needs” that “typical” children. That being said, I am learning that beyond labels and whether or not your child has one/needs one (topic for another time or place) is the simple fact that you are the magnet your child’s behavior seeks. You are the only person in the world who has the ability to do this. That is why your child is YOUR child. If I find the right side of my magnet, then all is well and my son and daughter will thrive and grow and hopefully eventually figure out how to flip their magnet around to the correct side as well and viola we will connect once in a while. Isn’t that what every parent wishes for their child? I’m not deeming life to be happy ever after with no tantrums, I hate you Mom or you’re the worst parent ever, but let’s hope my theory will minimize these slips of the tongue from our youngins. You are probably already doing this better than me, but at this ah-ha moment for myself, I thought I would share in case someone else needs that little encouragement today.
I will stop and indulge in that contagious laughter because someone said the letter “p” and he thinks they meant it in the potty word sense. I will take a moment to soak in the beauty of simple humor. I will make myself pause, slow down and find a way even when my child pretends he can’t put his own shoes on and I am already standing with 30 pounds of stuff and a 24 pound baby with keys in hand already late for work. I read a lot of books on parenting children from hard places and have been to my share of trainings on this as well. I can tell you that these same techniques work for all kids and all parents. The idea that we cannot take our child’s behavior personally is a harder concept for me than I thought it would have been… probably because I am more tired than I ever thought possible, and when someone told me I would never go to the bathroom in peace again they didn’t tell me I would never watch another movie, and never have a moment just to sit on the couch at the end of the night unless I was ignoring some other chore that needed to get done like say packing lunches or find the dang camp t-shirt that he has to wear tomorrow. I digress… Anyway, when I remember to stop taking the negative behavior as a personal attack on my psyche, I am able to respond in a special way, a way that is catered to the needs of my child and not my needs. I can laugh, make funny noises, talk in a funny voice or sing to redirect, ask him to shake out his grumpiness, and guess what I calm down too. Yes – I am writing this as really plain self-discovery.
For my sweet daughter, who I don’t yet know what exactly your special need is in a diagnosable or undiagnosable way, I can only promise that I will find it. If it is laughter that you need, I got that one covered. However, my guess your need is different than you brothers. If I need to stand on my head to get your attention, so be it. Now that I am over the initial shock of your medical needs, sometimes your medical needs are easier to address than the emotional needs of your brother, because there is a label you have been given that has a formula for treatment. I can take you to your appointments, and we can work on the homework that the therapists give us, and we can go to every doctor that is recommended and then I see you respond and thrive. That part is straightforward. But your real special needs, the ones that don’t have a name, those personalized emotional needs, your magnet, I’ve not yet discovered. And that is the biggest mountain a parent faces. To find the way to make my magnet connect with yours in a way that doesn’t send either of us in opposite directions. I pray that God gives me the courage to find the way because this path is daunting.
I accidentally, ok it probably was divine intervention not accidentally, but anyway, I accidentally stumbled on a song on You Tube not once but three times in one day when searching out another song to play in the background while I worked. The song is “It Is Well” by Bethel and is a song that spoke to my soul. These words, “Through it all… my eyes are on you and it is well….let go my soul and trust in Him. The wind and the waves still know his name…and this mountain that’s in front of me, will be thrown into the midst of the sea” In my own personal strength my magnet never works. When I ask God to help me, guess what, my magnet starts to work. Sometimes it is my daughter’s needs that break me, and sometimes my son’s, but either way I just gotta trust that God chose these very children to connect with only my magnet and so therefore it can be done. So join me in this crazy adventure and let’s see if we can’t get every child’s magnet to finally work. Because really our children’s special needs are their special strengths and we need them to use them for good not evil. I want nothing more than for my children to find what makes their hearts tick and to find their purpose in life and this is how we start to do that. P.S. I promise I am going to write about something lighter next time!