Today I am sick. I am feeling pretty rough but still being a mom you just have to drag yourself out of bed and keep going. Moms don’t get sick days. So, instead of my usual profound statements about life, lol, I will leave you with a cute little story from yesterday.
I was also sick yesterday and not on my “A” game, otherwise this never would have happened. I would have seen it coming, but alas, I did not. We buy Goldfish crackers in bulk around here. We go through one of those really big boxes per week. I had just opened a brand new box and given Joshua a few. Then I left the box on the table and walked out of the room for 2 minutes, seriously, 2! I came back and not only had he managed to get the box down from the table, but opened it and poured every last goldfish onto the floor. At this point, not feeling well, I really just wanted to cry when I came back into the room and found this catastrophe. But I just didn’t have the energy to cry or get mad about it. Jordan came into the room as I was standing there staring at the mess wondering what to do about it. I mean this is $6 worth of goldfish, you can’t just throw them away. Not in this house anyway. Jordan so wisely said, “it’s okay mom, I will help you pick them up and put them back into the box”. So, that is what we did. And so I warn anyone visiting my house in the next week, don’t eat the goldfish!
When did we all decide that we have to be perfect parents? I was sitting quietly, a rare thing indeed, the other day and pondering why I feel the need to be a perfect parent. I don’t mean I shouldn’t try hard to be a parent, but I can never be perfect and yet I expect myself to be. I think we as parents put way too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We have this idea that if we do everything right our kids will turn out wonderfully. That isn’t always the case, I know of many parents who did a bang up job of being parents yet they have messed up kids and the opposite is also true. There are children who are doing really well and yet have terrible parents.
I was thinking about “back in the old days”, like the colonial period. I really like that time period and I am just crazy enough to think that it would have been cool to live back then. I am sure that would last maybe a day, when I had to do laundry by hand outside in the cold or kill my own dinner. But I daydream about what it would have been like to live then. I was thinking about the parents back then. They usually had a lot more children than most of us today do and yet I would bet you they didn’t worry about being perfect parents. One reason, time. They didn’t have time to worry about such things. There wasn’t time to worry about whether or not to get little Johnny a cell phone or not, or whether to let Suzie date yet. People didn’t have time to worry about such things, they were just worried about survival. I think maybe we have too much time on our hands these days and that brings about worry.
I have been worried lately about the amount of time I get to spend with my oldest son, Samuel. He, unlike the others, is at school most of the day and then when he comes home there is homework, dinner, baths and bed. I don’t really get to spend much time with him except on the weekends and then it seems the younger ones take the majority of that time. He is turning 8 soon and I can’t believe our parenting journey with him is almost halfway over. Time just slips away when you are not looking. I worry about how my lack of time is effecting him. I am sure that people in the old days didn’t even think about such things. And, for the most part, their kids turned out way better than ours do today. There are many reason for that, but I think that one thing that messes up our parenting is that we spend way too much time thinking about it. There are millions of books sold each year on the subject of parenting and I have read most of them. In fact, Glenn and I lead a small group on parenting. I do think it’s a worthwhile subject, obviously, but sometimes we can get too caught up in doing things just right that we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. You have to learn, as a parent, that there are things worth trying to do your best job at and other things not worth even bothering with. I have decided that one of the things not worth bothering with is my oldest son wearing dress shoes to church. We have battled over this issue, but I decided I can either force him to wear the shoes and he is uncomfortable and grows to hate church because of it, or I can let him wear more comfortable shoes. Does it really matter? That is a very personal question for each parent, but I have decided that that issue does not really matter to us. Each parent has to think about what things are really important to them and those things will change in each family. The point is that you cannot make issues out of everything or you will wear yourself out.
Worrying about the future does not help you make any progress. It’s like rocking in a rocking chair, you are expending energy but not going anywhere. I can worry all day about things in the future, even important things that might be worth worrying about, but it will not change those things. Joshua, my third son, is about to turn 2 years old. He isn’t talking yet. I have spent a lot of time worrying about that and if he will ever talk, but it has not changed him talking at all. It does affect me though, negatively. I cannot change Joshua, he is getting speech therapy and we are hopeful that someday soon he will talk, but until then I have to leave it in God’s hands.
I feel like there are a lot of parents out there who need to put less pressure on themselves about parenting and they would be a lot happier. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so don’t worry yourself so much about being one. Do your very best as a parent, but if you mess up, as we all do, remember that there is always tomorrow and allow God to forgive you and move on.
Having a child with special needs, I have discovered, means you know a lot of letters you didn’t know before. There is IFSP, NICU, IEP, MRI, SLT, OT, PT and all sorts of others. Sometimes these letters and what they stand for can feel like they will take over your life. For those of you who don’t travel in special needs circles I will give you the meanings of these letters.
IFSP-Individual Family Service Plan (this is the document that you write with your local early intervention program to get services such as physical therapy)
NICU- Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (hospital nursery where premature babies go)
IEP- Individual Education Plan (this is the document that follows the IFSP when a child starts school, it spells out what kinds of help that child should receive in school)
MRI- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (picture of the brain)
SLP, OT and PT- Speech therapy, Occupational therapy and Physical therapy
Recently, I was in a meeting with Joshua’s services coordinator where we were reviewing his IFSP for the year. She began to talk to me about what we were going to do when he gets to school. I realized that in the course of a short conversation we had used all of the above abbreviations. I realized that I have developed a vocabulary that most people don’t have. Having a child with special needs changes you life, and your vocabulary is just a small indication of that. As we consider adoption another child with special needs I realize that this new lifestyle and vocabulary will become even more intrenched in our lives. And that is just fine with me. I find purpose and meaning in helping Joshua achieve what he is capable of. I feel like we have really embraced the fact that he has some challenges both now and in the future and we are doing all we can to help him overcome those.
Our services coordinator was talking to us about needing to transition Joshua from early intervention to being under the umbrella of CMS, our local school system, when he turns 3. That is how things work around here. In order for that to happen and for him to continue to receive the therapies he needs we will have to write an IEP. For those of you not familiar with this term it can strike fear into the hearts of some parents. In order to write this document you must admit your child has special needs that require help. That is not an easy point to come to at times. I will admit we had hoped that when Joshua was discharged from NICU at 3 months old and things looked good for him that we would avoid all this sort of thing, but we were nieve in that. I realize now that the best thing we have done for him recently is to admit he needed more help than we could give and get that help for him. But you can understand what a hard road that decision is for parents. So, we will be writing an IEP for him over the next year. The services coordinator was surprised that with Glenn in education we were so willing to accept this idea of an IEP. Often times educators resist the idea for their own children because they see what children can be like that have IEP’s, there are good and bad things to every situation.
Knowing that I will someday, most likely, have two children with IEP’s who are labeled “special needs” does not bother me. I feel like God has placed these children in our lives for a reason and He knows that we can handle it. I have heard recently, since we have announced our adoption plans, people say to me that they are surprised we are considering special needs. I too would have been surprised by this idea a year ago, but God has changed our hearts and minds. We know God has placed Joshua, and his special needs, in our family for a reason and that He would have us consider a child with special needs in our adoption plans. This is not something I would have ever thought I would be doing, but God has a way of changing your plans and changing your heart. It is in our hearts to parent children with special needs and we are doing well with it. The social worker who helped us with Joshua’s adoption told me as we were going through our homestudy that she thought we would be good parents for a child with special needs. I just thought she was crazy, honestly, and moved on. But when we found out Joshua had some special needs her words came back to me and over the course of this year, in dealing with the lifestyle changes that have a child with special needs brings, I see she was right. I handle the millions of doctor’s and therapy appointments very well and the constant advocating for my child in getting him whatever services he might need. It can be a full-time job, but it is something I am good at and enjoy doing, for the most part. 🙂
I will be proud to continue to learn more letters than I knew before as bringing another child with special needs into our family will inevitable do. I feel like I speak another language and that language is one that is shared with all mother’s with children with special needs. It’s a knowing smile and an understanding that we have for one another knowing the hard moments and triumphs of having a child with special needs. There is nothing better.
Last night we saw the movie Courageous at our church. It was excellent and I would highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. It’s a Christian movie made by the same people who made Fireproof. The essential message of the movie is to have the courage to be a better father and husband in a world that doesn’t place high value on those titles. The movie talked about how detrimental it is for children to not have a father in their lives growing up and I can attest to that fact in my own life. Statistics show that 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes, 90% of homeless and runaways come from fatherless homes, and 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes. That would suggest that having a father around is very important to the overall well-being of the child. Of course there is a difference between just having a father present in your life and that father being there for you. My biological father and I have a relationship; he is in my life, but is he a father figure to me? No. I would venture to say I do more parenting of him then he does of me. That is a sad fact of a lot of fathers today.
What children need is a father to be involved in their lives. Ephesians 6:4 states, “4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” The Bible commands fathers to not be passive, but active in the training and instruction of their children. Fathers need to step up and be present in their children’s lives.
Personally, I have to say that Glenn does a great job of being a father to our children. But it takes effort. I know there are times when he is doing stuff with the kids when he would rather be doing something else. And I know he is aware that the kids are watching him and he is trying to be a good example. He is not just present in the kids lives, he is there for them and that is intentional. Parenting has to be intentional, you can’t just be in the same house with your kids and think you are parenting them.
Glenn and I were watching that movie last night and some of the scenes were about fathers parenting little girls, and young women. We both commented on how foreign that seems to us and how it makes us a little nervous to think about parenting a girl. But I know Glenn will do a great job at it, because he will be intentional about parenting her.
One theme in the movie is about stopping the chain of destructive parenting in your life and doing things differently with your children. I did not have a good father, and I have to be intentional about stopping that bad parenting chain with me and my children and being there for my boys in a way my father wasn’t. I am not a father, but I am supporting and encouraging Glenn in his fatherhood with our boys and making sure it is better than the experience I had as a child. That is one thing I am looking forward to about having a little girl someday, changing the pattern of fatherlessness in my past and creating new habits and parenting in our children.
[A guest post by my husband, Glenn]
If you are a regular reader of my wife’s blog, you will notice that we are unconventional in a few ways. One of these unique characteristics is our enjoyment of Saturday mornings at 6am – let me count the ways:
Letting the dog out of her kennel and into the yard. The way that she bolts out of the door as if the squirrel that she sees will disappear into the morning mist.
The sound of Samuel and Jordan playing imaginary games on the kitchen floor. Although Jordan is inordinately loud for this early in the morning, it is nice to hear them getting along well as brothers.
The sound of the coffeepot. LOVE the sound of the coffeepot.
The squeaky sound of Elijah calling for someone to get him out of the crib with his “hey duh duh duh… hey muh muh muh…” mantra.
Hopping over Super Mario bedding that has been brought into the kitchen for the morning, although it pretty much ends up in front of the stove most days with no apparent purpose.
Tripping on the bouncy chair in the darkened bedroom when retrieving Elijah from his infantile prison. OK, so this isn’t actually something I enjoy, but it is a part of the morning routine.
Writing a short blog post with Elijah pressing all of the keys his chubby little arms can reach. I just hope the drool doesn’t get down into the laptop.
Ruth is still sleeping. We’ve been at this for an hour now, as it just turned 7am. I would hate for her to miss this magical experience of togetherness. We should go check on her.