Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Beating Boring Barriers

There is no such thing as true boredom when raising a special needs child. There is always more to learn, another challenge waiting around the corner, and all of those great curve balls that come our way. However, there are times when we can feel a bit "stifled" by some of the restrictions that seem imposed on our lives by meeting our children's needs.

My daughter, for example, is very particular about public restrooms. She is unwilling to use many of them although her reasons are not always clear. We still go to a lot of different places, but our subset is much smaller than it could be. She loves to play at parks, but until recently was only willing to use the restroom at one park, which made it difficult to attend play dates and other social gatherings at different parks. Gradually we are working together to try new places. Today she actually asked to go to a different park than the one we usually go to. Our world is expanding! -- but it's been a two year process. Parents of typically developing children do not understand why it is such a big deal to go to a different park. They may go to a dozen different parks with their children without giving it a second thought.

How do we cope with the barriers and boundaries that our children's special needs impose on us?

First, recognize that life changed the moment you became a parent regardless of the special needs your child has. As a parent we are called to meet our child's needs to the best of our ability. Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:9 --
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks
for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know
how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in
heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!" (NIV)

In other words, we give our children what they need and if those needs have a high cost, we still strive to meet them. We bear the image of God in these acts of provision.

Second, remember that the time is short. Paul writes in I Corinthians 7:29-31 --

"...From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away." (NIV)

The time of being a parent is short, and beyond that, the time of this world is short. Remembering that we will look back on this brief span of eternity as "light and momentary troubles" (II Corinthians 4:17) helps keep it all in perspective.

Third, we work wherever possible to expand our world and the world of our children. We try new things, new places, and introduce new people, new foods, new ideas. We cannot do it all at once. It takes planning, patience, and perseverance, but we can proactively seek change. I believe it is important to strive for growth in at least one area at all times. Otherwise the sphere of experience will not expand, but it will naturally contract.

I would love to hear how your family overcomes the barriers that might otherwise hem you in. Leave a comment by clicking the link below.


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