Don’t Ever Forget That {words for parents of special needs kids}

Oh, boy.  There is nothing like being at a busy and popular outdoors store (aka: the “big” Bass Pro Shop) and dealing with a very defiant, loud, and just plain out-of-control four-year-old.  Wowza.  Directives were given.  Choices were offered.  Still yet, the force was quite strong with this one, today.  Because I am the parent and he is the child, I gave him one last warning, “If you do not hold my hand and stay with me, you and I will have to go to the van.”  And, boom.  He’s off.  Throwing a major, cataclysmic style of meltdown for all of the outdoorsy, fishing fanatics to see.

I swiftly, yet gently picked the floppy body of my child up off the ground, maneuvered him in a way that protected the both of us, grabbed the keys from my husband, and headed off to the seemingly non-ending walk to our van.  The ENTIRE time, my child was screaming.  Now listen.  His screams were not just a “typical” scream.  Oh, no.  It was something animalistic that surely came from the depths of the dwelling place of Hades.

His body stiffened.  I nearly dropped him.  He somehow managed to get himself to the ground, and then magically became limp and without strength to stand up on his own two feet.  I picked him up off of the ground, carried him like a basket, watched for the flailing arms and legs, and we meandered our way through that gigantic maze of dead animals and camouflage.

As we walked, or better yet, I walked while wrestling what seemed like an alligator, people just stopped and stared.  They parted the way (just like Moses parting the Red Sea…sort of) so that I could get through.  Sometimes, a few older people chuckled.  Others made eye-contact with me with the “Girl, we feel your pain” kind of solidarity (AND I LOVE THOSE PEOPLE), but then were many that gave me a look of disdain.  I mean, how in the world would any decent parent have a child that acts like that?!   Right?  Yeah, right.

Alas, we made it to the van.  I opened the door, he threw himself on the ground.  I got his car seat all ready for his delivery, he stiffened his body.  I peered around to see a church van of folks staring and watching our little game of cat and mouse.  I finally got him in the van, shut his door, jumped in on my side, and locked it.

With a bit of snarkiness, I posted on my personal Facebook page a status that included wild animal sounds not being a new sound effect of Bass Pro Shops, having a walk of shame out of the store, and Jesus coming back, but then I sat back in my seat as he started to soften a bit, and I held back tears.

Some might say that this behavior is quite typical of a preschooler.  I suspect it is. However, and I’m going to be extremely candid about this, my husband and I deal with these type of behaviors on a daily basis, and we manage the best we can.  All of our children experienced trauma in the womb.  It is as if they not only absorbed the choices their birth mothers made, they also absorbed the chaos around them.  There is something to be said about that.

People have said to me, “At least you got them as babies.”  ‘Tis true.  We are very blessed to receive our children as infants, but that does not mean, nor ever will mean, that we do not experience daily struggles with our children.  This is the thing that only parents of children with invisible special needs can understand.

When others see my children, they see bright, cute, outgoing, athletic and friendly kids.  What they don’t see is the day-to-day parenting energy that is expelled in order to pull this off.  They don’t see our neurology appointments, clinical assessments, and a medication regimen that we have to attend to.  They don’t hear our discussions with people in the helping profession or attend the various training on managing trauma and behavioral issues that we’ve attended.

They don’t know the late-night, in bed, talks between my husband and I about how we can handle a behavior, or what we should or should not do to maintain.  They don’t know the time spent advocating for our kids.  They don’t hear our prayers for protection, wisdom, and healing.  They don’t understand just how exhausted we are at the end of the day.  And, they do not know our worries for our children’s futures.

But..let me tell you, friend.  There is this mighty thing called faith, and it encompasses us.  It envelops us and surrounds us with the will to get up each day and try to do better.  We know, with every pore in our bodies, that our children are exactly where God needed them to be…with us.

My husband and I realized a few weeks ago that we are parenting special needs kids.  Of course, we’ve known this for years, but we finally spoke it out loud.  We finally gave ourselves permission to call it what it is, and to not be happy and “okay” with life all of the time.

For others who are parenting kids with special needs, I just want to say that you are a special kind of parent.  You deal with issues that a lot of families will never face.  You understand with full attention what it is like to parent a child whose walk on the Earth is laden with challenges.  Your energy and time spent researching, advocating, listening, crying, and praying is time well worth spent.  Don’t ever forget that.

Tomorrow is a new day.  Cover yourself with the belief and hope that we are making a significant difference in the lives of our kids.  We are not perfect.  We have to discipline differently.  We have to choose to ignore the things that would drive other parents crazy.  We have to carry ourselves in a manner that does not show just how much we are struggling.  And, we should be proud of this.

It takes a lot, a tremendous amount, to parent children with special needs.  Don’t be shy to ask for help.  Don’t be embarrassed to admit that you struggle.  After all, we are simply parents whose lives are a mission field for children who desperately need us.

Don’t ever forget that.

 

 

Be Kind {a note to students for this school year}

(Author’s note:  For many of us, our kids are starting the beginning of a new school year.  With a new year comes excitement mixed in with a bit of dread (especially when it comes to early wake-up times and homework).  This post is for all of the younglings (K-12th grade) who are beginning this new year of learning.)

Hey, Kids!  Good luck during this school year.  I hope you have a remarkable year of learning and friendship.  Give it you best!  Can I ask you something?  If you could do one thing that could change the world for better this year, would you consider it?  Well, here it is…

BE KIND. 

That kid that dresses a little out-of-style or in clothing that looks worn out, well he may be working a job after school to help put food on the table.

That girl who seems to shy away from groups or other social events, well she may be dealing with the emotional fallout of a parental divorce.

That little girl who seems to be a bit odd, well she may be carrying a dark secret about what is happening to her in the hours of the night when you are getting a restful sleep.

That boy who walks with a limp, well he may have overcome great odds to survive.

My mom used to say to me, “Kill them with kindness.”  I’ll admit that I failed time and again to do so, and there were plenty of opportunities to show kindness that I ignored.  The truth is that we really do not know what is going on in someone’s life until we listen, learn, and understand.  More than this, though, is the responsibility to be empathetic.  Yes, it is a responsibility, and you never know when you will need someone to be empathetic to you.

As a young person, you will make plenty of mistakes.  That is okay.  Mistakes are a way of learning how to navigate this crazy thing we call life.  You will have regrets.  You will wish for a do-over, but let me tell you, the one thing you will never regret is choosing kindness.

You never know…that kid with worn out clothing may end up being the best friend you ever had.  The girl who seems to shy away from groups could become the one person who shows you kindness when dealing with a hardship.  The little girl who seems a bit odd could be the very person who comes to your defense when you need it, and the boy who walks with a limp just might become one of our greatest leaders.

Lots of things come and go.  Fashion, music, popularity, etc all seem to sway with the tide, and they are not permanent.  Do you want to know what will make a permanent mark on one’s life?

Kindness.

Kindness doesn’t sway.  It doesn’t fade out or become unpopular.  It sticks with you, and it sticks to those you choose to be kind to.  Kindness matters.

Kiddos,  I challenge you to be the generation that is known for kindness.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?!  I think so.  After all, we adults can learn so much from you.

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we are PARENTS {my response to Al Trautwig’s Tweet}

18m6oyDid you hear about NBC commentator Al Trautwig’s tweet regarding Simone Biles’ family? If not, here it is:

“They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” (Al Trautwig via Twitter)

Soon after, he received tongue-lashings from others about this very offensive statement, and a #FireTrautwig campaign has started.  He has since deleted the tweet, and has apologized,

“I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air,” he said in a statement emailed by NBC Sports. “I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.” (USA Today)

More clear?  Sorry, I don’t buy it.  The fact that Mr. Trautwig took the time to capitalize the letters of the word “not” speaks of great intentionality with his words.  Even though the tweet has been deleted, the impact of it has lingered.  You just can’t flippantly say something like that and expect it to just go away.  Words, whether kind or full of ignorance, always have a way of causing a visceral reaction with people.

Now, I know that some might say the adoptive community is just too sensitive.  We don’t like to use the word “real” when it comes to defining biological family.  We don’t enjoy hearing others ask, “Where did you get him from?” or “Aren’t you worried she will look for her real parents?”  We don’t appreciate any of these types of comments or questions, but we understand fully that education and awareness are greatly needed in the area of adoption.

Perhaps, we (adoptive community) are too sensitive at times.  We like to use a certain verbiage on our terms, but get defensive when others do.  We strive to be viewed as a “normal” family and want to be seen as not differing from others, even though we all know that adoption is different and the way our families were woven together are as diverse as the terrains we all come from.  I understand that we can be (at times) a little snobbish about who we are.  We all know the in’s and out’s of what it is to parent a child not born to us.  We are incredibly good at making things seem rosy all of the time, yet we know there are moments that are just ugly.

Sensitive?  Maybe.  Strong and persistent?  ABSOLUTELY.  Al Trautwig’s tweet was offensive.  In just a few words, he completely diminished what it is to be a parent through adoption.  I literally lifted out of my chair when I read them.  I recalled the moment my son was told that I was not his “real” mother.  After reading the tweet, my mind went to my children.  How heartbreaking it would be for them to read something like that.

To even suggest that Simone’s parents are NOT her parents is exactly the opposite that all families formed through adoption strive to be.

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word parent is this:

  1. 1a:  one that begets or brings forth offspring

  2. b :  a person who brings up and cares for another

  3. 2a:  an animal or plant that is regarded in relation to its offspringb:  the material or source from which something is derivedc:  a group from which another arises and to which it usually remains subsidiary <a parentcompany>  (Merriam-Webster)

Am I not a parent when I’m wiping away tears from my sad child?  Am I not a parent when I’m paying for the various activities my children are involved in?  How about when I’m advocating on behalf of my child at school, or doctor’s office, or in a social group, or when I come to the defense of my child?  Am I not a parent when I feed, nurture, and take care of my child’s daily needs?  Am I not a parent when I invest in my child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual growth?

After all, who else would be doing this?

Adoption may be different, but it is very much PARENTING.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, and it sure shouldn’t take a tweet from an ignorant sports commentator to diminish it.

Adoptive families have nothing to be ashamed of.  We are all explorers in the landscape of children who needed a family.  Let’s leave the definitions of parenthood up to those of us who are doing it, and let’s give children, who have been adopted, the right to call us what they want.

By all definitions and standards, we are parents.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

World Changers {for my daughter and yours}

20160804_155418I spent yesterday with my daughter. We had a “Girl’s Day”. We ate, shopped, laughed, and we hit the salon. Sometime this week, my daughter heard that the store called Justice is THE place to shop if you are a girl. I would like to thank whoever told her this. Okay, not really.

She begged me over and over again to take her there. She went from begging to dropping subtle hints like: “When we go to the mall and look through Justice…” You get the point. So, I caved. We headed to the mall and straight to the store. I’m pretty sure my wallet screamed with a hint of agony the minute I crossed that glitter and glam-infused threshold.

As my daughter looked at bras and make-up (you know…because she is SEVEN), I took a peek at some shirts to get her for the start of the school year. The shirts were all about girl power, being strong, being brave, being world changers, etc.

While I was looking at them, the audio in the store was playing interviews with girls saying the very things that their shirts had on them. I listened as a little girl said, “I’m going to change the world.” Others recounted being themselves and unique and strong and not letting anything keep them reaching their goals. (BRILLIANT marketing, by the way).

This is super embarrassing to admit, but I had a bit of a “moment” in that store surrounded by all that is great about being a girl. I even teared up. Seriously. I was the crazy lady shedding a few tears in Justice.

Now, this is not meant to be political. It is not meant to be for one candidate versus the other or any of that nonsense. I’m completely fine with people exercising their right to vote for who they believe best represents their concerns and values. I may be taking a risk to even post this, but I’ve always strived to be authentic in my expression of feelings, and honestly, this is not even about who I think anyone should vote for.

Yesterday, that little feminist piece of my heart swelled up with pride. Being with my strong-willed, opinionated, and creative daughter, reading the messages of hope and confidence splattered across those shirts, and listening to girls declare their sense of self, all reminded me of just how far women have come. It hit me that we have a presidential candidate (USA) who is female. She might end up being our first woman president. She might not. Agree with her or not, this is historic for us women.

Regardless if she wins or loses, I think or at least hope that we can and will remind ourselves of the value that we all have. We are daughters of purpose. Nothing should stand in our way.

For my daughter and for yours, I teared up a bit in that money-grabbing store called Justice, and my tears were not about how much it was going to cost me to shop there. My tears were ones of solidarity, pride, and hope for my daughter and all daughters around the world.

Let’s not forget that. Let’s continue to be strong, to be caregivers, to be boo-boo handlers, to be entrepreneurs, to be CEO’s, to be worship leaders, and…

to be world changers.