Isn’t it amazing how many lessons we learn from our children? When I began homeschooling, I thought my children were supposed to learn from me. I had no idea that the situation would quite often work in reverse! Over the last few weeks, I’ve learned a really hard lesson. I hope this blesses those of you who struggle with similar situations—especially those who have special needs children.
This story began months ago. I found myself becoming resentful about taking care of my 19-year-old daughter who is severely autistic. You see, for 19 years, I’ve been bathing her, brushing her teeth, dressing her, preparing meals and supervising her eating, dealing with her anxiety and meltdowns and resistance to going places and to being around people, taking care of all of her personal needs, dealing with extreme sensory issues and aversions to most kinds of foods, and homeschooling her at the same time. (We tried a public school program for autistic children as well as having her mainstreamed in a regular-ed classroom, but that disaster story will have to wait until another day.) My daughter is completely non-verbal and has very poor motor skills, so she needs the kind of care that most children only require for the first few years. To be honest, I just got tired.
It seemed as if one day I woke up and thought, “I simply cannot do this one more day.” I was mentally and physically worn out. I had trouble thinking about how I could keep doing this year after year after year—especially since this isn’t something she will grow out of—it’s a life-long situation. I became overwhelmed and stressed and anxious about it. I tried to pray and ask God to give me a better attitude. I tried to reason with myself. I tried to force myself not to feel resentful or angry. But it didn’t work.
Then, a few weeks ago, my daughter suddenly got very sick. The doctor admitted her to the hospital to try to find out what was wrong. (She wasn’t able to tell us what was wrong since she’s non-verbal.) She ended up being in the hospital for a very difficult week. It turned out that she had pneumonia in both lungs and was in a good bit of pain. She had become dehydrated too.
As I was there in the hospital with my daughter, who was completely helpless and dependent on her daddy and me to speak for her, make sound medical decisions, take care of her, and reassure her that things would be better soon, I realized something. I realized that my daughter, even though she can’t express it with words, was always calmer when her daddy and I were close by than when the doctors and nurses were close by. I realize that, if her daddy and I were giving her medication, she took it (mostly) without incident. I realized that, if her drip needed to be changed or flushed out, she would allow me to do it, but she would have had a meltdown if a nurse did it. I realized that she trusted her daddy and me. She knew that we loved her and were there to take good care of her. She wasn’t worried that we were trying to hurt her. It was then that God brought this verse to mind:
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
That’s when my heart began to soften again toward my daughter. That’s when God reminded me that He loves and cares for me no matter whether I’m grateful or obedient or faithful to Him. He allowed me to see my daughter as He sees me—helpless, not knowing the best way to take care of myself, not understanding at times what is going on around me or why or what to do about it. But just like my daughter was completely dependent on her daddy and me, if I will allow Him, God will comfort me, show me the right path, take care of me…just like my daughter trusts me to do for her. It was at that point that I began to realize what a privilege it is to have a daughter who loves me and trusts me that much!
My daughter is much better now and is completely well. In other words, for her, life is getting “back to normal.” I hope, however, that life never gets “back to normal” for me. I hope instead to remember this hard lesson and to continue to understand that, even on the hard days, God is taking care of us. I know I’ll still have times when my attitude isn’t what it should be toward my daughter (or my other children, for that matter). But I also know that God used this situation to change my heart and give me a new love for my daughter. And I hope I never forget this lesson, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you.
No, God doesn’t always make the way easy for us, but He always loves us and cares for us. And I’m thankful to Him for reminding me that I’m loved and cared for even when I’m going through difficult times. Would I heal my daughter today if it were possible? Yes! But in the mean time, I love my daughter just the way she is.
It is my prayer that, if you are the parent of a special needs child, you will allow God to be your comfort and your strength. You won’t ever be perfect—I’m certainly not. But I believe that God honors our efforts and sees our hearts. And for that I am grateful.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. “Shoes” by ningmilo.