My third son Joshua is 22 months old. He was adopted at 8 days old. We met him in the hospital, he had been born premature at 29 weeks. He also has a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis. All those factors added up mean he has some developmental delays. We realized that he wasn’t hitting his developmental milestones about a year ago this time. He was 10 months, and not yet sitting up. We called in the specialists and they started Physical Therapy with him. He has done very well with it and recently graduated from PT. From one year ago, when he wasn’t even sitting up, he is now running and climbing and doing all the things an almost 2-year-old does. He just needed a little push. This past summer we realized that he had some sensory issues, he doesn’t like loud noises and certain textures. We started Occupational therapy and in 6 months he has made so much progress. He just needed a little push.
Now, at 22 months he is not talking. He says two words “more” and “doggie”. We have started Speech therapy in the last month and today we went to have his hearing checked. Although they didn’t get to complete the test, since I had both Joshy and Elijah with me and they started freaking out together, the preliminary findings are that he can hear. So, why isn’t he talking? I don’t really know, but my guess is that he just needs a little push.
Joshua is the type of kid that would be happy to just do the same thing everyday and never change. He is not intrinsically motivated to grow and do new things. He is a “whatever” kind of kid. Fortunately for him, he has a mommy who will not let him get away with “whatever”. I have realized that he needs to be pushed to grow and do better. God realized this too and that’s one of the many reasons He gave Joshua a little brother who is 11 months behind him and very motivated to do more stuff. Joshua is content to let me feed him baby food, in fact, he will bring me containers of Elijah’s baby food to feed him. Elijah on the other hand, will not tolerate being fed and will grab the spoon from your hand and feed himself. That is just who he is. He is a great motivator for Joshua. God does not make mistakes, and even situations that seem crazy, like having two kids 11 months apart, God knows what He is doing.
So, I just want to publically apologize to Joshua for what is about to occur in his life. Now that I know he can hear, it’s time for some mommy pushing. He is going to hate me for this, but he will be better for it. I push because, if I don’t, who else will? I push because I know there are things he can do better, he just needs to try. I push because the world may look at him and say, ‘oh, he has special needs, that is all he can do’, I do not believe that, I know better. He can do more, he just needs to be pushed. I push because I was once a baby born into substance abuse and had challenges with learning disabilities, but my mother gave me a home and pushed me because she knew that while the world may have seen me as just a crack baby, there was more there if she just pushed me to be everything I could be. Never underestimate meager beginnings, it’s what you do with the in-betweens that matters in the end.
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Our two youngest boys, Joshua and Elijah, are 21 months and 10 months respectively. To say the least, that age spacing can be a bit of a challenge at times. There are moments in every day when I wonder what I have gotten myself into. We affectionately call them the “furbies”, which for those of you who don’t know, those are toys from the 90’s that “talk” to one another with little non-sense words. The babies tend to “talk” to one another. When one laughs the other laughs and when one cries the other does too. It makes for some loud moments. They also share everything. Toys, food and germs. Going to the store is a challenge. I have to either, wear one kid and put the other in the cart while the two big boys walk, or find a cart that you can put two kids in. Or if I am really lucky, a cart that fits three! Gotta love Target! Having these two youngest 11 months apart has been an experience and up until recently, not one I would like to repeat. But over the past few weeks, I have been watching the two of them start to play together.
Now that Elijah can crawl, he follows Joshua around everywhere. They play with the same toys and laugh together. The best thing they do is play “hide and seek” together. One will “hide” around the corner in our hallway and the other will go “find” his brother and they just laugh. It’s awesome to watch! They are going to be the best of friends. I can now say that all the hardship of having two little guys 11 months apart is totally worth every minute!
“We love because he first loved us” I John 4:19
This verse took on new meaning for me recently. I love all my children, but I would be lying if I said it isn’t easier to love them when they show you love in return. When babies are first born, we love them simply because they are our children, not because they have done anything to deserve that love or to love us in return. But then slowly they begin to respond to us and give us love in return and it becomes easier to love them. Elijah is at the age when he is starting to show some affection for us and it is so wonderful to get some love back for all the love we have expressed to him. Joshua has been slow to show us love. It took him longer to smile than most kids, but he was so rewarding when he finally did. Now, he will allow you to hold him in your lap, but doesn’t want to be cuddled. I don’t know if it’s just a personality thing or if it has something to do with his special circumstances, but he is not what I would call cuddly. He has never hugged or kissed us and hasn’t even laid his head on my shoulder, ever. Honestly, it’s hard. I pray that someday he will do that and some day he will say, “mommy, I love you”. But until then we keep loving and expect little in return.
The other day I was lamenting this to God. To be honest, this is especially hard on me as the mommy. I love to cuddle my boys and get hugs and kisses. It doesn’t bother Glenn as much because he doesn’t need all that to feel loved. But for me, that is how I show affection. Some of my boys like hugs more than others, but they all allow me to hug them or show them physical affection in some way. All but Joshua. He just doesn’t want me hugging him. I know that I have rejection issues, I admit that, and that compounds this issue, but his lack of affection feels like rejection sometimes. I have had to work through those feelings and just hug him anyway, no matter what his response is. So, as I was talking to God about all this He pointed me to this verse above. He showed me that we were all like Joshua once, we didn’t want His love, but He gave it anyway so that we might be saved. We rejected Him, but He still loved us. What a humbling realization for me. I still reject God’s love at times. Sometimes I am too busy to spend time with Him. Sometimes I don’t listen to His still, small voice and reject his directions in my life. There are many ways I don’t always accept His love and it hurts Him just as Joshua’s rejection hurts me at times.
When I first had kids, I learned what it meant to become unselfish. Those of you who are parents know what I am talking about. Once you have kids you can no longer just do whatever you want, you have to think of someone else’s needs first. When you have a child with special needs that is compounded. It teaches you to weed out whatever selfish needs for affection you might have, in my case, and realize that I have to love Joshua not based on what he does in response to me, but just because. Love is a choice and not a feeling. No matter what other people might tell you. Love is action, it’s what you do. There were times when we first got Joshua that I didn’t feel all warm and gushy about him, but I realized that wasn’t necessary to loving him. I loved him every time I changed his diaper, or feed him. I loved him by DOING things for him. There are times still when I don’t feel gushy about my kids, but I still love them. I love them by doing their laundry and cleaning their house. I love them in a million ways every day. Love that is based on what someone else will do for you, is shallow love and not the kind of love God calls us to. Motherhood, and especially mothering a special needs child, has taught me that. But there is one person that will love me always, no matter what my response to Him, and that is Jesus. I can lean on that love and know it is always there, just as my children can lean on my love and know that no matter how they respond to me, I will love them anyway.