We mamas love our children fiercely. Like Maya says in the second episode of Speechless, when told to not worry, she said “I can’t. He’s my whole world.” I totally get what she’s saying. But though our children can feel like our whole world, there are also times it is easy to wish things were different. To compare them to other children and wish things came easier. To look at the outward appearance and the behaviors and the developmental skills (or lack thereof) rather than looking at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). And so, without any further ado, four ways I’m learning to embrace my children:
Embrace and Support Your Child’s Progress
It’s so easy to see how far our child has to go to catch up with their peers. To see how little progress they’ve made. But we have to be intentional to focus on the positive. To focus on each and every victory, no matter how small it may seem.
In the Genesis account of God creating the world, notice He said “it was good,” after everything He created. He didn’t just say “it was good,” when it was all done. We must do that too. Celebrate the little victories as well as the big.
Philippians 4:8 says “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
I had to be more intentional on focusing on the positive about my children’s development. I learned to celebrate every milestone and every single inch in-between, instead of just focusing on the next milestone and feeling there was never a light at the end of the tunnel. Because when you see how far your child has come, you realize you’ve made it quite a ways down that tunnel, and you can keep on making it until you come out that other side.
2) Embrace And Support Your Child’s Heart
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). While Jesse didn’t think his youngest son looked like a king, and in fact didn’t even have him come in from tending the sheep to present to Jesse to be a future king, David’s was the heart that God knew was right for the job.
Oh, I was so convicted when I read that verse, and yet also, simultaneously freed to love and embrace my children for who they are. I found it so easy to focus on my older’s son’s developmental delays, moreso then I did his heart for people. But once I started looking at his heart, I found so much to be thankful for, so much to nurture in him. How he loved to snuggle with people he loved, how he would get so excited every time he saw a baby and run over to gently stroke them. Oh, you should have seen the sheer delight on his face when he discovered twins!
And as for my younger son, I found it very easy to focus on his anxiety and strong-willed nature, and how I wish he had neither. I found myself at the end of my rope dealing with the therapies and supplements for both kiddos and then the strong-willed antics and tantrums and defiance of my younger son. But once I started to really embrace his heart, I saw what it was aching for. He wanted a little more attention from his frazzled mama. A little more structure in our days, since each day’s schedule was different with our appointments and errands. And once I started getting more intentional about giving him some undivided attention and a little bit more structure in our schedule, my resentment faded away and the behaviors that were driving me insane stabilized to a more manageable level.
It may seem overwhelming. I already have a million things to do, and now I need to take more time for each of my children? But it’s worth it. Each child deserves some undivided attention. Each child needs love and encouragement. And sometimes, those personality aspects that drive you crazy, are simply there because they want a little more from mom and dad. Figure out what it is they need, and you will watch all your children thrive under your love and encouragement.
3) Embrace and Support Your Child’s Passions
In Exodus 31:1-6 God tells Moses about how He designed and gifted Bezalei. God says “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts-to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.” You can sense the pride in God’s voice as he brags about Bezalei and how he is using his gifts and skills.
When you have a child with special needs, it’s easy to see the weaknesses, how far they have to go, how slow the progress is. A lot of the time we worry about how to help them in those areas of weakness. But our children have strengths that need to be nurtured. That God wants us to help nurture and steward in our children.
Kristine Barnett wrote a fascinating memoir about her son who was diagnosed with autism, called “The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism” (aff link). She decided to focus not on her son’s multiple areas of weaknesses with his severe autism diagnosis, but instead focus on what he was interested in, which was space. She took him to see the stars at night, to the planetarium, to lectures on astronomy and she watched her son come alive. He became more interested in the things of the world when he was fed with what interested him. He began to talk. And before long he was studying physics and astronomy on his own. Taking college classes at age 11. He still couldn’t tie his own shoelaces, or understand how to interact appropriately with everyone, but he could write mathematical equations I will never be able to understand.
Now I’m not saying doing something like this will cure our children. But think about when you get an opportunity to do something you love, it makes you feel alive, right? Wouldn’t that also be true for our children?
I encourage you to write down each of your childrens’ interests and passions. Plan activities to make sure they get to experience those things. To grow those passions. And watch their excitement as they get to experience something that makes their little hearts feel alive.
4) Embrace and Support Your Child’s Relationship with God
It’s easy to focus on the outward appearance and skills like we mentioned before. But what ultimately matters in the Kingdom perspective is that we enter into relationship with Him and bring Him glory.
Matthew 19:13-15 says “Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Oh, how I felt so convicted one day when I read this. I realized I had simply assumed my older son wasn’t cognitively ready for Bible stories, so I focused on teaching him how to read and work on his speech and gross motor skills and dressing himself. Those were more foundational skills to life, right? I felt so convicted, that I was hindering my children from knowing about Jesus and their Bible stories because I thought they were too delayed to get it yet. Or that there were more important things for them to learn. What could be more important than learning about and loving God?
And so, we have gotten more intentional about praying together as a family. About reading Bible stories before bed. About listening to children’s praise songs and singing them together. When one night before bed I asked my son what he was thankful for (the response was usually “Toys!”, or “Mommy, Daddy!”) he responded “Eesus!” it brought tears to my eyes.
As their mother, I will focus on embracing my children for who they are. It’s a mindset. But one I’m willing to strive for. What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
If you were encouraged by this, you may want to check out my new book, Embracing This Special Life: Learning to Flourish as a Mother of a Child With Special Needs.
Embracing This Special Life will help you:
-View the special needs parenting journey from a biblical perspective
-Release expectations, negative thoughts, and emotions that are not healthy for you or your family
-Embrace God, yourself, your children, this special needs journey, and life itself to its fullest
This practical and encouraging book will guide you toward spiritual victory and renewed purpose in your special needs parenting journey.