Community, Coping with the Challenges

The Needs of the Special Needs Mom

When we found out that our child had some severe developmental delays, it was the beginning of a very long and tearful journey. Is this your reality? Or perhaps you know someone whose dreams for their child have taken an unexpected turn.

Though the world may applaud her for her sacrifices and dedication, in reality the mother of this child has some special needs of her own.

The Needs of the Special Needs Mom

She needs a break.

After homeschooling a child with special needs for the past 7 years, one thing has remained consistent: this kid requires A LOT of breaks. But the mother needs breaks as well. Tension can rise quickly even during the most simple conversations. Hitting the pause button or even switching activities can prove invaluable.

She needs time away from her child.

Sometimes a short break is not enough. Because I spend almost every waking moment with my child, I am physically and mentally exhausted before day’s end. I’m thankful when my husband will sometimes take our son out before we both become completely unglued. On a more extreme case, my husband recently whisked me away to the beach for a couple of days because he knew stress levels were high in the home. Even though I resisted the idea (not because I hate beaches, but because the control freak in me didn’t want to leave my son for that long), it was a necessary time to recharge. If you have a friend in this situation, you can offer to take her kid out or, perhaps, she would appreciate it more if you took her out.

Want to know the story behind this photo? Click here.

She needs a listening, sympathetic, and compassionate ear.

Sometimes this mom needs to let it out, vent if you will. She wants to talk about how daily tasks are a common battleground, how she feels like she’s not doing enough to help her child, how it’s hard to join play groups, and how the frequent meltdowns are enough to keep her from leaving the house. She wants to talk freely without judgment. Though there is a place for a timely word of encouragement, sometimes she just needs a friend who will listen and weep with her.

She needs encouragement.

I’m going to be honest with you. Encouraging words for someone struggling in this are not the easiest things to come by. Should you tell her you can relate even though you don’t have a child with special needs? Should you go the practical route and suggest something from a parenting book you just read? Should you tell her everything will be ok or things aren’t that bad? Though meant well, sometimes these responses can sting the open wounds of an already hurting mother.

But don’t shrink back from reaching out to this mom. She needs you to be a true friend, even if you are not in the same situation as she is. The best encouragement I have received have come in the form of a prayer, a Bible verse, or simply “I love you.”

Do you have a child with special needs? What do you need right now?

Community

Faithful Friends

I am a work in progress. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Surely, this verse gives me hope because as of today, I am not complete; I am still in process. It is true that I have been justified, my legal standing before God is done because Christ’s righteousness has been graciously applied to me. I know my end … praise The Lord! But, I’m not there yet. My sanctification, God’s work to make me more like Christ, is in the here and now. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

CoupleThere are struggles in the road of sanctification. I am no longer under the dominion of sin, but there is still a battle with sin and my flesh. So when my husband confronts me with a particular sin (speaking the truth in love, of course), a battle begins within me. He could see the growing strain in my relationship with my son, Gabriel, and has observed that I have had a shortage of patience with him. Gabriel will often get “stuck”. He needs repetition to learn and find assurance, but sometimes that repetition of words, actions, and conversations becomes unnecessary and even a deterrent to effective communication. The process of getting him “unstuck” is not always easy, and this is where I begin to lose patience. Gently, my husband reminded me, “You know how he is. He has a fragile heart. He needs you to sit down with him longer and talk with him to help him through it.” Did I mention that my husband is very gentle with me, even in times of much needed rebuke? But still, I fought against it, coming up with different excuses and sob stories why the counsel he’s giving me seems impossible. However, in the end, God had me where He wanted me, confessing my sins and asking Him to grant me that, which I know He has an abundance of: patience.

Some of my sins are done in secret or in my thoughts so that unless I act out on them, no one will know, except God, of course. But there will be some sins that will be obvious, especially to those closest to me; namely, my husband and children. So I am thankful when a loving rebuke comes to me from my husband. It’s never easy to hear, but I know he has my best interest in mind. To have a friend like that is truly a blessing from God. Even before I got married, I had a few faithful friends, who knew me and did not shrink back from telling me the hard thing because they were concerned about my relationship with Christ.

Young FriendsFriends are many things to us. They are our companions, confidants, counselors, and cheerleaders. They serve us and serve with us. They pray for us and with us. They encourage us during the setbacks, toil with us through the difficulties, and rejoice with us in the victories. But perhaps, one of the hardest, but most precious, act of a faithful friend is to bring us the pain that we need so that we may experience the healing power of Christ.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:5-6)

 

(Photo credit1: Jing Qu)
(Photo credit2: Gwen)

Coping with the Challenges, Family Life

The Birthday Party

“Mommy, I’m getting nervous.” That was my son, Gabriel. We were the only ones in the car. Daddy was at work, and siblings were just dropped off at the grandparents’ house. We were on our way to a boys’ birthday party, running late from getting lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I assured him that I would stay with him at the party. We rang the doorbell, but the house was quiet. As I guessed, everyone had gathered in the backyard. The boys, all around 6 to 7 years old, were running around playing with toy guns. Gabriel stuck with me, like a fly on a wall.

Army MenHe became interested in a bag of army men toys and began to set up his soldiers on the patio table. A couple of the boys joined him, and I quickly whispered in his ear, “It’s ok if they move things around. They just want to play with the soldiers too.” Thankfully, he wasn’t rattled by this “interruption” to his little solitary game. And, this gave me a bit of time to chat with the other mothers, who stayed at the party.

However, it wasn’t long before Gabriel was tugging on my shirt, asking me to play with him. So, I played with him. We set up the army men for battle. Then, I showed him how to hit the birdie with the badminton racquet. Then, we tried out the croquet set. And all along, my heart ached for my son, fighting back tears as I tried to savor the moment with him, while attempting to ignore how heart-broken I was that he couldn’t be around other boys his age. I gently tried to encourage him, “Why don’t you join those boys over there, playing catch?” Hardly looking away from those little soldiers, he said, “They look kinda busy.” I certainly didn’t want to force him and give him bad memories of this birthday party.

Gabriel is of the age when boys begin forming friendships and when they want a boys-only party or even sleepovers, but Gabriel just doesn’t seem to fit in with anyone … not right now. Maybe he’ll always be the quirky kid. That’s ok. I’ve had my share of feeling different, so has my husband. But I sense that Gabriel is becoming more aware of it though, as he expresses his anxiety of being left alone without us by his side. So, birthday parties is a rare thing for my son, unless it is for someone in the family. Don’t get me wrong. He absolutely loves birthday parties! And he enjoyed the one we went to, especially the pie-eating contest and the water balloon toss. But he enjoyed it alone, though he was surrounded by boys, who were equally excited.

Of course, I would want a friend for Gabriel, someone who would reach out to him without any coaxing, who simply likes Gabriel for who he is. I pray that God would bring someone like that for my son. But more than that, I desire that he finds his best friend in Jesus Christ. He is the friend who will be there at every birthday party, who will gladly reach out to him, who will love him unconditionally, who will never be too busy for him, and who will never leave him nor forsake him.

 

(Photo credit: Kapungo)