Many of my thoughts on raising children have changed since I’ve become a parent and especially since raising a child with special needs. I’m almost too ashamed to post this, but I thought it would be good to write down how God has graciously allowed my perspective to evolve through the years.
1. I used to think that the answer to all sleep issues was to let the kid “cry-it-out”.
I never thought that some kids (especially those neurologically-affected) just have a terrible time with sleep and that marathon crying sessions can do more harm than good.
2. If I saw a child throw a tantrum in public, I used to think, “Gee, his parents should discipline him more at home. It’s probably his parents’ fault that he’s turned out this way.”
I looked at “difficult” kids with such a judgmental eye rather than with compassion for them and for their parents. I never stopped to think that maybe their parents have tried their best and that they are at the end of their rope. I never considered that the child acting out at the store had sensory issues like Marcus or had other hidden disabilities that sparked the poor behavior. Before having kids, I thought that consistent discipline = obedience and now I know that it is not 100% the case and we can never control our children. When I thought of the best behaved kids, I thought it was due to the measure of their parents’ godliness. But now, I’m thinking that perhaps the parents of one or two “difficult” ones are more blessed because they have so much more brokenness before God and others.
3. If I saw a noticeably older child in a stroller, I would stare at him and think, “By golly, that kid is old enough to walk. Why is he still making his mom push him around in a stroller?”
I never considered that this child had motor or muscle issues and that maybe he needed the stroller because he fatigued easily.
4. I used to think that how a person appeared on the outside showed his capacity for contributing great things from the inside.
Entering the world of special needs has shattered this view of people. I have encountered so many individuals and have heard of so many people whom society had “written off” upon looking at them. But in reality, these people have warmed so many hearts and taught so many people the lesson that God looks at the inside and that sometimes God gives these people a greater ability to love and serve others. (edit: And besides that, so many of these individuals have a sharp intellect and a witty sense of humor.)
5. When running into a family with a child with special needs in public, I would pretend not to notice them because my heart broke with pity for them.
I never considered that this child’s parents were elated that their child was enjoying the time out without having sensory difficulty on that particular day. Or that they were so proud to see their child sitting up straighter or holding his head up with more stability. Or that he said a new word. Or that it was the first time walking in the mall in his walker. There are times when we’re out with Marcus in his walker and people pretend not to notice. But there have been a few who have looked and smiled and then I nodded in return because yes…I was so proud of our little man!
6. When I was a kid, I used to make fun of the weird and socially quirky kids and thought I was so much better than them.
And these thoughts grew with me because as an adult, I thought that the weak and disabled and the “different” were part of the lower classes of our society.
(edit: Just thought of 2 more)
7. I used to look down on parents who had to lug around a huge bag of entertainment for their kids everywhere they went. I thought they were teaching their kids to be “high-maintenance” kids.
I was so humbled by this when we learned that Marcus had an incredibly tough time with boredom, especially during red lights in the car and sitting in a non-moving stroller. But now, I don’t go anywhere without books, toys, a DVD player, and lollipops because they help him SO much!!
8. I used to think that diagnoses such as ADHD, Oppostional Defiant Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, etc, were a bunch of psycho-babble that just gave excuses for people to behave the way they did.
I never considered that people with these diagnoses (and their families) truly suffered and that there were neurological and other unknown causes for their difficulties that couldn’t simply be cured by having someone wave a Bible verse over them. Reading this Christian mom’s blog of her experience raising many adoptive children with similar issues (due to prenatal exposure to drugs/alcohol) has changed my perspective on this.
I’m so ashamed that I thought these things (and more). These thoughts stemmed from a legalism and pride that I didn’t even know existed in my heart. I’m so sad that I came to such quick and harsh judgments of people whom the Lord loves. I’m reminded of Christ’s ministry to the lowly, the helpless, the weak, the outsiders of the world, and that He became the world’s biggest loser when men judged Him and when He was put on the cross.
And yet, I know that sooner or later, our family and Marcus may be the target of these thoughts from strangers. But rather than responding in anger (and believe me, I’ve wanted to punch some people out), I hope that I respond with compassion for these people as well. Perhaps God hasn’t yet given them the grace-filled opportunities to change their perspective. After all, without God’s grace, I would still be thinking the way I used to.