I have had the pleasure of getting to meet with some new moms at Carter’s school. And inevitably when you get moms together, especially special needs moms, we talk about our kiddos. We ask how old, when they got diagnosed, do they talk, how do they eat, do they play with peers, what treatments have been tried, etc. And inevitably when you go down this road you immediately begin to compare. I’m not sure why we do this, but we do. We compare our kids to theirs. We compare our parenting to theirs. We compare, compare, compare until we can’t think straight and question everything we have done, are doing and will do. I think it’s hard enough we compare our kids to typical kids, but we do it within our own community.
My husband and I went to a marriage retreat a year after Carter’s diagnosis for parents with children on the spectrum. We were also housed with parents of children with terminal illnesses. Sitting in the room hearing from parents who kids will not survive childhood made me feel silly for complaining about my son not sleeping well at night. It gave me perspective that even at our worst places in autism, it will never be the same as physically losing my child. I thought I don’t have it that bad. My child is healthy and happy. I should focus on the good, the positive and not give so much to the difficulties.
Now that is all well and good, right? Until you’ve been up since midnight and it’s 7am and you have to go and work a 12 hour shift. Luckily I had a friend who reminded me that voicing my hardships, giving them weight, isn’t a bad thing. I can be happy with my life and still acknowledge the difficulties. I honestly used to believe that the two could not go hand in hand. Complaining that my son slept bad once a week meant that I wasn’t grateful for the 6 nights he slept 10 hours, right? Thank God, no. I can be sad, mad, devastated, angry, bitter, exhausted, impatient – but only for a moment. And by moment, I don’t literally mean a moment. What I mean is, although you should speak your sorrows, hardships and difficulties, you should not dwell on them. Live them, then give them to God. Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t let them overwhelm you. Don’t let them rob you of your joy.
Comparing ourselves, our kids, our marriages, our lives is something we can’t help but do. But it is foolish to think it will get us anywhere. Instead, I try to remain focused on the One who gave me all of those things. The One who directs my path. I could spend all day comparing my son to other kids, special needs and typical, and find him lacking. But instead, I chose to be glad in his victories, no matter the size. I chose to love him just as he his. I chose to show him the same kind of grace that God shows me everyday. To remember that he is made in God’s image, and just like me, God has a plan for his life.