My stomach flip-flopped, again, as my teen boy opened the door of our car, looked at me with tears he was trying to hold back, and said, “I got in trouble, again. You will be getting a call from the teacher.”
This had happened so often throughout his life, I was familiar with the scenario, but often felt helpless to know what to do.
“What happened this time, Nathan?” I tried to hold back my frustration from showing in my voice.
“The teacher was explaining something and she was just not logical at all. I kept asking her whyevery time she tried to give an answer, but she never answered my question. So after the fifth ‘why?’ she told me not to ask anymore, she yelled at me in front of everyone, and then she asked me to stay after class. Why is it against the law to ask questions in a classroom?”
I had opted for him to take an extra class so I could have a little break once a week, but somehow it never felt like a break.
Nathan was different from the beginning, He was bigger than life, louder, often agitated, argumentative, and ran in the grass instead of being able to stick to sidewalks. Math, reading and spelling were very challenging for him, and sitting still was almost impossible. It took me some years to find a full diagnosis for his issues and it involved a whole string of letters, including ADHD, Clinically OCD, ODD, with learning issues and other small parts of a spectrum.
Our journey through to his adulthood was a challenge at each phase, but as I see him flourishing at 28, I realize that he was a special gift to me and to our family, but I had to learn how to manage our stress while moving him forward. Having an out of the box child of any kind, is a marathon of sorts, in life—a long journey walked one day at a time. Learning a few tools of grace helped me over all the years.
1. As a mama of an out of the box child, I had to learn to give up control or expectations of how any day would look. I was not ever in control of my child’s behavior, but I could choose, as an adult to face my circumstances with open hands and a patient heart so that I could bring grace to each situation as it was needed.
2. Learning to live and breathe in grace for my own shortcomings and times when I expressed my frustration and anger, helped me not to carry the extra baggage of guilt for the times I blew it. All mamas blow it sometimes. But God was there to love me in the midst and to take my burdens and failures into His hands to give me a fresh start every day. We have to learn to live in grace and acceptance for ourselves, even with our shortcomings.
3. Learn to accept your child for the person God made them and don’t try to force them to become the child you wish they were. Kids with different personalities or out of the box issues can mature, grow stronger, but they are essentially not going to change in design. In other words, their unique issues will probably be with them their whole lives. But each child, and each of us, longs to be accepted for who we are, even with our limitations—warts and all. Learning to speak words of affirmation to them is water to their soul.
4. Find ways to give yourself a break every week—a time out alone during the week at a favorite coffee shop so that you can re-center; cultivate a friend who understands your child and will have them over to their house so that you can have a break in your own home once in a while; find parents with similar children so that you can find understanding for the pressures you deal with. Filling your own heart, regularly, helps to keep you going for the long haul.
You are the channel through which your sweet child will feel the love of God, the patience of God, the hope of God for what he or she will become. Know that every day, every moment of your faithfulness matters to God and He wants to help you find joy in each day of your journey. Your sacrifice of time and love pleases God as your service of worship.
Nathan and I have written a book together about our journey as mother and child through the years of His growing up outside the box. He shares what it felt like from the heart of a child, as well as ways he felt empowered to grow. In Different, I share my realistic challenges and the ways I learned to love him through the years. Our prayer is that wherever you are in your parenting journey, you will find grace, hope and companionship to know you are not alone. You can grab your copy here.
Sally Clarkson, SallyClarkson.com