Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Challenging children

I read an article today about kids with disabilities, and it made me think of my friend's daughter, Mary, who has Down Syndrome. Mary is a sweet 4-year-old who believes herself to be in charge of everything. Recently, her Mom brought her to help with hospitality at a program we were leading, and Mary was just hilarious. She would march people up and down the stairs, babbling and gesturing to show people where they needed to go. I can understand about 10% of what she actually says, but it is obvious that SHE knows what she is saying. She is determined and headstrong and prone to tantrums, but she is also sweet and social and engaging.

The other interesting thing about Mary is that she is adopted. In other words, her parents consciously chose to accept the challenge of raising a disabled child. And they do so with grace and patience that overwhelms me.

I've seen many families who have been blessed with such a special person in their lives. I have often wondered if we'd be strong enough to open our home to a disabled child. Sometimes, I feel a little guilty for not having done that already. Then I start to feel a little guilty for thinking that, just maybe, our family might be complete with two kids. I mean, there are all these kids out there (especially special needs and foster care kids) who need good homes, right?

It's OK, really, to be happy with "just" two. It's OK not to think about the future and whether or not other kids might someday join our family. Simcha rocks, by the way, for reassuring me of this. Babies are hard. Even easy babies. Sleep deprivation sucks the life right out of you.

Additionally, I realize that we have some special needs in our family right now anyway. Always a challenging child, Olivia has ramped up the level of challenge since Marty appeared. She is emotional and insecure and attention-seeking and NEEDS every ounce of energy I can give her. Yesterday was a good day. She listened and helped out and did what was asked of her probably 80% of the time. There were no major meltdowns. There was relative peace in the household.

And by the time she went to bed, I was exhausted. Bone-tired. Weary. Keeping her at her best requires constant creativity and intervention on my part. Starting to melt down because Mommy needs to fix dinner and can't draw a dinosaur right now at this very second? Oh, wait, didn't we draw a dinosaur already? Look in your notebook...oh, that was a mermaid! Silly me! Can you check your notebook to see if we drew any other mermaids? Are there any with purple hair?  Why don't you draw a bunch of fish friends for the mermaid and see how many friends you can give her before I finish making the soup? I'll bet you can draw at least ten! No, don't touch your brother. No, honey, don't pick him up. He's fine right there. Why don't you show him your mermaid family. Tell him a story about the mermaids. He'll like that. Just don't pick him up. Please. You are doing a great job.

It's an exercise in distraction. And balance. And reassurance. Trying to keep her happy while keeping the baby is a lot. (And by keeping the baby alive, I mean keeping his sister from crushing him. She is not good at discerning what is "gentle touch" and what kind of touch will cause serious bodily injury to her infant brother.)

What I'm saying is that, for now, two is enough. Sometimes, more than enough. That may change as the kids get older and (please God) less needy. Or it may not. And I'm OK with that. If we are called to be good parents for these two kids, part of that is determining whether a new addition would, in fact, be good for these two kids. And being open to whatever God is calling us to do. Right now, he's calling us to keep Marty fed and happy while paying extra attention to Olivia's emotional needs. And that, my friends, is plenty.

1 comment:

All in His Perfect Timing said...

I read and loved Simcha's article too! I can't imagine life with 2 kids of different ages, but I will just take that as it comes, just like you are. It is overwhelming when you think about the future ... but you are doing an AWESOME job being a great parent now! The keeping Olivia entertained part (mermaids, drawing, telling stories to Marty) has got to be tough work! But you are VERY creative in keeping her occupied!