PARENT REALITY COMMUNITY BLOG
-By Andrea Lehmensich
‘Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have.’ – Joan Ryan
I am a mom to a daughter with intellectual disabilities in addition to general anxiety and separation anxiety. I work full-time, as I have not had the opportunity to work from home, so Faith had to go to aftercare etc. Faith is 18 now and has bloomed into a beautiful, kind, caring and loving young woman. I can truly say the last 18 years were very difficult and brought many challenges, but we focus on the good, not the bad and refuse to let her disabilities define who she is.
From one parent simply trying to make it, to another, this is what anchors me daily:
Find joy in your child every day. Accept who they are – the gift God has given you – and embrace their uniqueness, their special ways and the connection you have. That is something most normal parents never have with their children. Find joy in the beauty of what they say, or when they make you laugh, or how they make others feel. Our children are a gift to this broken world. They bring light into a dreary and cold world and make the sunshine just a little bit brighter. They make hope possible.
Find hope in all circumstances. Never give up, never surrender. You may need a cry, a coffee, or a day in bed, but giving up is not an option. Hope is what motivates us to get up every day and make sure their routine is sorted and that they are in a good space as they wake up and start their day. Hope is fundamental when there are days that seem overwhelming.
I am a Christian. I believe in God and I believe God’s gift was my daughter, the biggest challenge of my life, and God moulded me into the Mom she needed. He has grown my faith; He has given me strength I never thought I had, and He has been my anchor throughout the last 18 years. When my body felt so weary, my spirit was strong, and He kept me going. Giving that faith to your kids is important too, as it helps them focus on believing in themselves and shows them that they too have a purpose in life.
I can truly say God has given me a peace inside me when the chaos surrounds me – patience to deal with tantrums and issues in a calm way. Your peace is so important because the way you handle a situation is the way you teach your child to handle a situation. You must remember that we are all flawed and broken, and they are still learning how to navigate life, handle their problems and develop coping mechanisms for whatever they are going through. Find your own peace, take time for you. You cannot give from an empty cup so keep yourself healthy and find yourself. I found a hobby – painting by numbers – and it is my saving grace. I sit and do it for myself to fill me up again. Maybe read a book, go jogging, go to the gym, watch a series – whatever it is, find me time. I cannot emphasize this enough. We give a lot and forget that we must give a little to ourselves as well or we are no good to our children.
You think they do not hear you, but they do. For years, because my daughter has anxiety, her brain would default to negative as soon as she woke up and I refused to let that happen. So, every morning I sent her a positive quote or motivational video. Just something to bring a smile. For 10 years I had been doing this unsure if it would make an impact, until one day my daughter came to me and told me about being positive and all the things she has learned. 10 years of motivating her changed her way of thinking. Yes, there are still bad days but the good days outweigh them now
Just love them, that is all. Unconditional, all-consuming love on the bad days, on the good days and on the OK days. Love covers everything. It is the one thing they need when the world seems so cruel, and they don’t feel like they belong. Remember it is always the small things that matter. The time you give them fully, deciding to leave the dishes for later, sitting and watching a movie with them, going for a drive or a walk to embrace nature. Live life to the fullest capacity so that they can see that life is good.
I did not want to write this focusing on all the negative aspects of having a child with special needs, because regardless of the challenges they face, life is beautiful, and they need to see that and experience that. We have been given this enormous opportunity to shape our children’s lives. To show them that regardless of your challenges you can rise and impact others and the world. Find their passion, focus on what they can do, not what they can’t, and grow in that. I want to show Faith every day that her struggles the last 18 years have not been in vain. That she is important, valued and enough.
I found some quotes to help you stay motivated:
“Being a mother is learning about the strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed” – Linda Wooten
“Live so that when your children think of love, fairness, integrity, and tenderness they think of you” – Author Unknown
“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” – C.S. Lewis
“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” – Christopher Reeve
My prayer is that this blog brought you a smile, a small sense of hope, and that you embrace your child and find joy in everything. Life is beautiful, we just need to focus on what is truly important for us as parents and for our kids.
Be a light, focus on small goals and achievements, and always hold on to hope.