Monday, December 21, 2015

What You Don't See

I am a fiercely private person. I am also fiercely loyal. I will do anything for anyone I love, but I have a very hard time opening myself up to others and asking for help, prayers, or encouragement when I need it. I have trouble showing my emotions to others, with the exception of my husband and parents...they see the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

And one more thing: I am fiercely protective of the family that G-d has entrusted to me. I have always struggled with how much to share about them, because I want to protect their (and our) privacy. But maybe I have gone too far the other way. The problem is: people talk, people judge, and even when you do explain things, people don't really understand; they still just usually judge. 

Our family is unique. We get a lot of stupid questions. A LOT. Like, where did you get them from? (Oh, you know, I found them wandering around the parking lot....) What language will your baby speak when he grows up? (Ummm...English?) Are they adopted? (Well, DUH!) Are they real siblings? (What other kind are there...fake?) Most of the time, I actually just laugh later at people's ignorance and wish I were mean enough to answer their questions with what I am saying in my head! My favorite questions are the ones from children, because I know they are being innocent; they are honestly just trying to figure out this whole thing of how a white mamma can have brown kids. The parents always jump in and apologize, but the kids are interacting with me in the way ignorant grown ups should. I don't mind honest questions about my family.

My favorite experience to date was at our local family dollar store. A beautiful and special grown up kid came up to my daughter and I, and asked the usual kid which her embarrassed mother kept apologizing. Once she had it all clear in her mind (which took many repetitions of the same questions from her and the same answers from me), she took a hold of my hand and said, "Can you adopt me?" Oh, how I laughed! I took that as a HUGE compliment! She made my day!

But this post is not about adoption, per se. I want to write about kids with special needs/disabilities. Kids with special needs who look completely normal. Sometimes I think that parents have it easier when it's visibly obvious that there are disabilities. But don't get angry with me; I know that's not true. We all have challenges, it's just that they are different. Whether your child/ren are biological, adopted, "typical," "non-typical" (haha), we all have challenges. Parenting is HARD WORK. So please don't feel that I am minimizing your job if you do not deal with what I do. I just need a place to vent for a few minutes.

My children--all three of them--have special needs. One was born with several heart defects and has related issues/needs that are on-going. My other two have special needs that they did not ask for--that were purely, 100% preventable. I do not dwell on that fact (the preventable part), because it does not change today. I only state that to say that it is sad when innocent children must grow up with disabilities that are due to someone's poor choices...much like a person who may be permanently disabled because of a drunk driver. It is something that must be realized, but then not dwelt upon. Forgiveness and grace needs to be extended, but then reality must be faced. I did not necessarily ask for the awesome responsibility of raising three kids with special needs. But G-d chose me, and I feel honored to be their mother. We were meant to be a family; each one is a miracle, and wow! I am blessed beyond measure! My kids are a gift! If you know me, you know how fiercely I love them and want the best for them. I want to see them reach their G-d given potential. My kids have overcome incredible odds and it is a miracle that each one is alive. I pray that I can continue to learn how to be the best parent to them and prepare them for life. I want to see them soar in G-d's strength and goodness. He will change the world through them...if they will commit their lives to Him (and I pray fervently that they do).

Here's my issue and main reason for this blog post today: do not judge a parent or a child by the child's (or in our case, sometimes--the parent's) behavior. Disabilities are not always visible. You DO NOT KNOW what a family may be dealing with and you DO NOT KNOW the best way to handle someone's child and they DO NOT WANT your unsolicited advice. Thank you. The next time you see a child (or a parent, hehehe) making a scene, just smile kindly and pray for them as you pass by. 

Sometimes I feel guilt, I feel shame, I feel embarrassment, I occasionally ask "why me?" even though I would not trade my kids for anything. I see G-d's sense of humor in choosing Tom and I for these kids, because we feel so incapable and don't always know what to do, even though we've read enough books to earn an honorary doctorate degree in the various special needs we have going on. He must laugh at us a lot; I know I do! I am thankful for a good sense of keeps the despair at bay. 

If you ever see my oldest son's chest, you will see a scar. A visible reminder of the physical disability he has. But my other two carry invisible disabilities. And for me, this is more difficult to deal with. I get comments from friends, family, and strangers--who are all well meaning, but think that I am maybe not parenting them "right." I need to be more strict, I need to be more lenient and gracious. I need to not worry, I need to...whatever. I have even had well-meaning friends tell me my kids are normal (whatever that is), which makes me angry, incredulous, and in the end just feel more sad and alone because no one gets it. Unless you are parenting children just like my younger two, I'm sorry, you just don't understand and I will never take your "advice" seriously. And to my friends who are in the same boat as me: I need you! We need to pray for each other, support each other, and encourage each other. I feel so desperately alone sometimes.