I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8 NRSV)
A few weeks ago I had a “quote of the day” that will not be topped for quite some time.
David (nine year-old boy): I’ve had the best year of my life. Want to know why?
Me: Sure. Why?
David: (Proudly) I didn’t throw up once!
David’s parents: (Shocked) David! There are things you don’t talk about at dinner!
Me: (Trying really hard not to laugh) Congratulations! Let’s hope this year is a repeat!
I had a most unusual experience a few weeks ago. Well, unusual for me. I spent the day with a typically developing child. Somehow I lost sight of the fact that typically developing children just aren’t part of my world. Being empty nesters, I’m not often around young children and when I am they usually have special needs.
I traveled to Minnesota for my ministry and mixed in a bit of fun by spending time with friends I’ve known for years. I also met in person for the first time their son David, a friendly, energetic and interesting boy. He’s a Star Wars nerd like me so we hit it off right away. The photo above is his impression of Luke Skywalker gazing at the twin suns of Tattoine. It takes a fellow nerd to spot that pose for what it is! He greeted me with a gift, a quarter, and a thank you note for some cookies I baked and mailed to him years ago when he didn’t feel well. He wasn’t tardy mailing it. I was tardy coming by for a visit to receive it. He was keeping it to hand-deliver. How sweet is that? I have his note and quarter sitting on my desk.
What I found so interesting is that throughout the day Roy and Darcy dealt with many of the same things we do as special needs parents. Social boundaries, rules, taking turns, all of it was woven into the pattern of the day. It was just plain old parenting, not the uber-steroid version of parenting so many of us experience. I’m pretty sure no therapists, behaviorists, or compliance plans were involved.
We went to a botanical garden to enjoy the fall foliage and brisk north wind, a real treat for a Texan in October! It was a bit dull for David with no playground and plenty of signs warning, “Keep Off the Grass.” Following the rules, check. Carrying on a four way conversation, taking turns and figuring out how to jump in with something to say, check. Practicing table manners, check. Sharing appropriate table conversations, check! Parenting is constantly teaching and redirecting, and my friends are great at it. I marveled at the energy Roy and Darcy had to keep up with David. I was impressed by the constant attention and consistent approach they brought to parenting.
As special needs parents we may feel a bit of envy at what appears to be an easier path for some. It seems to me that it ought to be simpler to parent a typical child. After my day with David I do not think that is necessarily true. Sure, there are things that we deal with that other parents don’t, such as therapy appointments, behavior plans, developmental limitations and medications. But parenting itself, the teaching and forming, the shaping of behaviors, is a lot of work. Being good parents has much to do with and the gifts and graces we share with our kids as we shepherd them toward adulthood. I thank my friends Roy and Darcy for reminding me that all parents share this same bond. It may have been a typical day for them, but it was a day of learning for me.
Loving Father, thank you for shaping us with love, leading and teaching us to live in ways that are pleasing to you. Help us to be for our children the parents that you call us to be, formed in your image. Forgive us for the times when we fall short as parents and help us learn to forgive ourselves when we make mistakes. May we grow in your grace as we grow in our roles as moms and dads. Amen.
Photo by Roy Mayeda