As a parent of a child with special needs there are periods of time when I have to fight for contentment. If you are a parent of a child with special needs, you probably understand exactly what I am talking about, but if you are not let me explain.
First, understand that my struggle for contentment does not mean that I love my child any less because he has special needs. In fact, it’s quite the opposite because the discontentment I experience is rooted in love and in desiring the very best for him.
It is a feeling of wanting things to go my child’s way or to come easily for him. But instead, it seems that every single skill has to be taught and repeated hundreds or thousands of times, and often this process still does not guarantee successful incorporation.
It’s the feeling of just wanting my child to fit in, instead of constantly feeling as if I am pushing a square peg into a round hole.
The Bible teaches us to learn, through God’s strength, to be content in all circumstances. And this commandment includes being content with who my child is as the exact person God created him to be.
Even if there are hundreds of extra challenges for my child to overcome.
Even if there are developmental milestones that are never met.
Even if it means accepting a life that is different from what I personally wanted or hoped for my child.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned
to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
I know how to get along with humble means,
and I also know how to live in prosperity;
in any and every circumstance I have learned
the secret of being filled and going hungry,
both of having abundance and suffering need.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
• Philippians 4: 11-13 •
Through Scriptures like the one above, God has shown (and continues to show) me that in His strength I can see my child through His eyes. God’s viewpoint helps me focus less on weaknesses and allows me to see the blessings that come from raising my special child.
God helps me to see blessings that I never expected before I started on this journey with my son. I have found that focusing my heart on these unexpected blessings is a weapon for me in my fight for contentment.
Four unexpected blessings I have experienced so far in raising my special child:
1 • Smiles.
When a child struggles with sensory overload, meltdowns, communication frustrations, and anxiety in unfamiliar situations, it takes a serious balancing act of therapies, medications, modifications, and many answers to prayers for a good day to happen. On days when these things successfully work together in the right way and my child flashes a huge smile to reveal his happiness, it is always a welcomed view to this mama’s heart and never taken for granted.
2 • Investment of many quality people in our lives.
If the saying of “It takes a village to raise a child” is true, then raising a child with special needs takes 3 villages. Because of his special needs, my child has a whole lot of extra people in his life.
Some of the extra people are professionals who have made it their life’s work to help children with special needs. The relationships with those individuals who have unselfishly chosen a career path to help my child and other children like him reach their potential, has been an added bonus to our lives. These teachers, therapists, and other professionals have patiently worked to help my child reach his potential—and have taught me so much in the process as well.
Then there are those who voluntarily give time to put themselves into our lives: grandparents who show up for a much-needed break or date night; helpers at church who allow my son to participate in a class (and his parents to attend worship services); and volunteers in his sports league who gift my child with the opportunity to participate in an extracurricular activity he loves.
I am so thankful to have people with the quality of character these individuals have invested in our lives.
3 • Small victories.
A couple weeks ago my child’s shoe fell off and he walked up to me and made the request, “Help me on.” He wasn’t frustrated or unsure of what he needed, and he made the right words with his mouth!
I’m pretty sure I didn’t get excited the first time my other children joined 3 words together to ask me to put their shoe on, but I know I told over a dozen people this big achievement on my son’s part.
Most of those people probably left wondering, “Why is she so happy about that?” But because I have waited so long to see development in certain skill areas, I celebrate any victory—big or small.
4 • Learning to love better.
Having a child with special needs has helped me learn to remove conditions from my love and to love in a way that is more like what Christ expects from us.
Our human hearts naturally have strings attached to giving away our love, and we tend to find it easy to love people who are like us, who reciprocate kindness, and who make us proud to be in their presence.
But what about when there is no personal gain for us or when the giving is extremely one-sided? Can we still give love during these times and situations?
Through the years God has used my relationship with my child to chip away at the conditions and expected returns attached to my giving love. Moreover, He has used my child’s ability to love without condition as a model.
So I will gladly accept every smile, person, victory, and portion of love that God gives me because on every day of this journey I desire contentment, and I never want to overlook the unexpected blessings along the way.