“a joyful mother”
It’s been a fun month for us. After our vacation, we enjoyed a visit with my sister and her son for two weeks. We see them three or four times a year, and it’s always such fun to see how my nephew has changed and grown. And because we’re moms, my sister and I generally end up having a conversation or two about being moms. We compare notes on discipline and dinners and just raising kids in general.
One of the things that can make it hard for us to compare parenting techniques is that my nephew has autism. If you met him, you probably wouldn’t even know it, but it makes itself apparent in certain situations, so disciplining him can be tough sometimes. She and my brother-in-law have gone out of their way to learn about the condition of autism, and go to great pains to work with the strengths and weaknesses inherent in my nephew.
Now, most parents do this for their children, of course. It’s one of the reasons I homeschool my kids ~ to work with who they are, individually, and to be able to enhance the places where they’re strong, and strengthen the places where they’re weak. But some parents have it just a little bit more complicated. That’s what “special needs” really means.
A while ago, my sister and I had a bit of a disagreement on the subject of parenting these kinds of kids. It was a good-natured disagreement; an interesting discussion on a topic on which we simply don’t agree. A healthy exchange of ideas, in which each of us learned something about the other’s point of view, even though it didn’t change ours.
The topic was one on which I’ve disagreed with others before. And it’s something I’ve discussed here more than once: heroism.
It came up because of something I had read by the parent of a special needs child. The author wrote about how much she dislikes certain platitudes that people say to her, when they think they’re being nice. Things like, “God knew you could handle this…” and “Special kids are for special parents…” and “I could never do what you do. You’re a hero.”
Now, my response to reading that was twofold. First, I don’t understand how it can be a bad thing, or the wrong thing, to encourage or compliment someone, in whatever form that takes. Some circumstances in life take more energy, more courage, or more perseverance than others. Parenting a special needs kid is one of those circumstances. So is being a single parent. So is being the spouse or child of someone in the military, with its combination of danger and long periods of being away from home.
My second response is: I’m sorry, but you can’t dictate who inspires me. That’s just all there is to it.
My sister’s point of view, however, is that of one of those parents. My nephew is an adorable and brilliant, but there are times that he is higher-maintenance than the average child. Or, since every child can sometimes require extra-effort, he is more frequently high-maintenance.
My sister recognizes that her son requires specialized creativity on her part, but she agreed with the writer of the article, that it doesn’t make her a hero. This is her child, and she’s doing what she needs to, to raise the best citizen she can, in the circumstances in which she finds herself. She says she shouldn’t be considered a hero, because in her position, anyone would do the same thing. But I don’t think that’s true. I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t use extraordinary people. He uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
How we handle the circumstances in our life defines who we are. I’ve disagreed with people before, about what constitutes a hero ~ sometimes because a hero, almost by definition, simply doesn’t see himself as a hero. But that doesn’t stop me from admiring them.
~ “Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart” ~