We are going through a difficult time in our lives. We just adopted an 11-year-old girl with Intellectual Disability into our family and she is having a hard time adjusting to family life after living in an institution for most of her life. This is one of those seasons of life that I know when its over I will say, “wow, I learned ____ during that time”, but right now I can’t imagine what I might be learning. It’s hard to see what God is doing when you are in the midst of one of life’s storms, but I know that He is teaching us something. However, there are a few things I have learned during this time that I wanted to share. Some are serious and heartfelt and some are just practical and funny. I think they apply to anyone going through something hard, but some of them are specific to parenting a special needs child.
1. Stay Clam, Eat Chocolate. When you are going through something hard, break out the comfort food. This is not the time to diet. This isn’t the time to make major life changes, just do what is comfortable, as long as it’s not too detrimental to your health. I have gained 7 lbs in two months. Granted I am pregnant and you can just say the word “pregnant” to me and I gain weight. But, I have realized that now is not the time to make major changes to my eating habits. I bought a book about how bad sugar is for you and how to cut it out of your diet. I read the first chapter and decided now is not the time for all that. I need sugar to survive right now, seriously, it helps me be in a good mood, so bring on the sugar. The last thing I need right now is to be grumpy because I am depriving myself of sugar.
2. You are stronger than you think. I have been amazed, over the past few months as we have brought our daughter home and things have gotten difficult, at how strong I can be. I am still standing after a whirlwind of crazy that has hit our life. If you had told me what we would go through a few months ago I would have said I could not make it through that. But here I am, still standing. Obviously this is not by my strength alone, it’s God helping me out. He really will supply your needs and give you the strength to take another step when you aren’t sure you can.
3. Just because you do something good for God does not mean it will be easy. I have to say, if I were running the universe, I would make it so that if someone opened their lives and homes to an orphan then it would be smooth sailing from there. However, that would be a perfect world and in such a world there would be no orphans because no parents would give their kids up or die or not be able to care of them. So, since we live in a fallen world that is sinful, there will not be a time when you do something great for God and then it all goes just perfectly and is easy. Hahaha. Ideally our daughter would realize that we have given her a better life and be grateful and loving toward us. Right. (insert sarcasm). She does not see it that way. Right now, I am pretty sure she thinks we destroyed her life and she hates us for it.
4. Raising special needs kids is harder than raising typical kids. I thought raising my two oldest boys was hard. And it is, but it’s nothing compared to raising Joshua or Elizabeth. I have never in my life felt more inadequate or ill prepared to do something as I do trying to raise our daughter. I have no idea what I am doing 99% of the time. I think that is because special needs kids don’t follow the rules. They don’t develop at the same rate as other kids and they just do different stuff. It’s unpredictable and scary. They don’t play by the rules. All the conventional wisdom of raising kids doesn’t work on them. It’s really hard. And as a special needs parent you should know you are in a special club of parents who are just doing the best they can but a lot of the time are just flying by the seat of their pants and doing whatever is working this week since it might not have worked last week and won’t work next week either.
5. Be honest about your situation, but not too honest. There is a fine line between telling others what you are going through so they can be supportive, pray for you and be understanding, and whining about your life all the time. No one wants to spend time with someone who talks about themselves and their life all the time. However, don’t be a clam, all shelled up and not share with others when they ask how you are doing. If you do tell them really how you are doing, please make sure to ask how they are doing. It’s not all about you, other people are going through stuff too.
6. Focus on something else. When you are in the midst of a storm in your life, sometimes your entire life seems to be consumed by that one thing. It’s at those times when it’s helpful to focus on something else, or someone else. Go out and help others and you will realize there is some else out there who has is worse than you.
7. Know, this too shall pass. I don’t know how long our storm will last. I don’t know if our daughter will ever love us or when she will start behaving differently, but I do know it won’t last forever. Seasons change and things pass. It will get better, at some point. Just hold on tight, keep on keeping on.