Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"JUST" A Mom

I don't title this post lightly. This issue has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I've shared it with a couple of friends who have affirmed that I'm on the right track. (Of course, I realize we often pick friends who are like-minded.)

A little background: My children are now 24 (daughter, married for 2 years) and 21 (son). When I became a mom, I knew I was 'meant to' be one! I have loved every minute of being mom to Jen and Jeff. No they weren't perfect kids -- but pretty close. We didn't have a lot of problems that many of their peers experienced. We were (and remain) very fortunate.

To claim no credit at all for how well our children turned out would just be insincere and disengenuous. I tried very hard to be a wonderful mother--not just a good mom--a wonderful mother! I know I fell far short of that ideal many, many times. But somehow, my children knew that was my goal and ardent desire, and they forgave me for not always rising to the ocassion, and savored the common knowledge that they were that important to me - and that 'getting it right' meant so much to me. They got that they mattered.

Getting to the point here. My daughter is a beautiful, bright, incredible young woman with multiple gifts and graces. My son is a handsome, strong, incredible young man with multiple gifts and graces. My son also has Asperger's Syndrome (very high end of the autism spectrum). We didn't always know what the diagnosis was, but we knew very early on what his challenges would probably be. We also, though, recognized early on what challenges our daughter would probably have (based on her personality and dispositon).

We never identified our son as being "special needs" because of his diagnosis. Not because we were in denial but because we don't make that kind of distinction in life. All children have 'special needs' regardless of where they fall on any spectrum, chart or yardstick for measuring their development. Some have more challenges, larger obstacles, fewer resources. All have needs that are unique and specific to them.

We've never identified Jeff as our "special needs" son. Nor have we ever identified him by the sports he participated in, the instruments he played or the fact that he read (and undersood) college-level reading material when he was in 5th grade or by his gentle spirit and deep faith.

But then we never identified Jennifer as our "exceptionally bright" daughter, either. Nor have we identified her by the sports she participated in, the excellent GPA she maintained throughout school, or by her beauty--inside and out.

That's because ALL children are special! I don't want to be pigeon-holed as a parent of a XXXX child. I want to be a mom--just a mom. My children are amazing human beings and I am proud to call them both my friends. I am humbled that God gave them to me and entrusted their care and nurturing to my husband and me. We have been in awe of them since the moment they were conceived. We continue to be in awe of the incredible human beings they have become and continue to grow into.

In the world too many things drive us apart and the mentality of "divide and conquer" and one-upsmanship seems to run rampant. I choose to be just a mom who can understand and empathize with other moms who want what is best for their children. I have tried never to judge other women for their parenting (or lack thereof) because I know there were times I dove into uncharted waters and stayed afloat only because of God's grace.

That's the message that I hope resonates for others when they hear me speak or read what I write: God's grace is the common thread for all of us. It's okay that we weren't (aren't) strong enough, smart enough, rich enough, young or old enough on our own to be the kind of mom (or person) we want to be. God's grace is enough--it makes us enough. It makes our 'best shot' at everything we do enough.

My husband and I have never doubted divine intervention and guidance in our parenting or in our lives. We fully accept, acknowledge and are ever grateful for it and invite it into our lives on an on-going basis.

So next time you think you're "just" a mom, smile! Next time somebody identifies you as "just" a mom, say 'Thank you!" It's a great thing to be!

"By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict" (Hebrews 11:23 NIV).

"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads" (Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NIV).

"he said to them, "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 32:46 NIV).

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth"(3 John 1:4 NIV).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tough Love Sprinkled With Grace

The last time I babysat for the my little buddies was different than previous visits in that the boys, being in the year between 2-3 are learning and growing and blossoming by leaps and bounds! Big sister is also developing that incredible little brain of hers - she's just not as "out there" as the boys. She's quieter and you can almost see the gears turning in her head behind those beautiful blue eyes:-)

Sister didn't want to go to bed. I told her if she settled down and helped the boys settle down during a short video, she could stay up a few minutes later than the "babies." For 30 minutes I had to remind and redirect her as she continually engaged the boys in "dancing" and running around during the video.

I made the mistake of yielding to her request, even though she ignored my previous repeated instructions to settle down, sit down, and not get brothers riled up so they would go to bed easily. (They did anyway, thankfully.)

Sister and I worked a puzzle (twice) and she clearly grasped the "hints" I had given her on the first go-round about edge pieces and matching up pieces with the same colors in the them. But then it was bed time. She didn't want to go to bed (by this time she was overly tired). She didn't want me to leave her without reading several books (we had already agreed that if I let her stay up, she would go straight to bed without the usual routine because it was so late).

She was having none of it! She was not a happy camper. I am, however, a "seasoned" parent and pretty much a no-nonsense person when it comes to establishing who is in charge (kids vs. adults). Eventually, she wore herself out and fell asleep.

Where am I going with this? Well, big sister reminds me a great deal of myself when God doesn't "comply with my wishes." I can become pretty hard-headed and complain, then start to get upset, then yell and rail at God until I ultimately just relent and let Him "win."

I held up my end of the deal, big sister did not. We both knew the rules going in, but big sister didn't like the rules, once it was time to abide by them. Even though I felt sorry for sister, after she had worked herself up into a pretty big fit, I continued to remind her of our agreement.

I went up to her room several times to assure her I was still hearing her (hard not to!:-) and she carried on with a great deal of histrionics, that I knew were only making her more upset. But I had to abide by my end of the deal--I had to stick by my guns or the next time she would push the limits even more and act up/act out to a far greater degree. I felt sorry for her, but I love her too much to have yielded.

I'm sure God feels as I did that evening: sad that I am unhappy, even knowing He is being just. God always keeps "His end of the agreement." I'm the one who protests, fails to cooperate, and ultimately work myself into a fit when He doesn't yield!

I'm so glad He is a just and unyielding God! The world needs that kind of unwavering justice and love. I need that kind of fairness and certainty that I will receive His love even when I haven't earned it and especially when I don't deserve it.

I'm glad God loves me enough to always exercise "tough love" sprinkled with mercy and grace.

"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD" (Psalm 34:11 NIV).

"what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children," (Psalm 78:3-5 NIV)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Transitions and Growing Up With Asperger Syndrome

Our son has graduated from the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center's Work Readiness Program with a Certificate in Materials Management (just like a certificate from the community college) . He far exceeded the expectations of the program and we are thrilled for him! We are doubly blessed because before he even graduated we received a call from his local case worker that he was eligible to participate in a 1-year grant program through a collaboration of VCU and Dept. of Rehab. Services!

He has been assigned a job coach who has already met with all of us and then with him once individually. We emailed her the resume we had developed and she combined that information with his experience and training over the past 9 months through his program at Woodrow Wilson.

On Monday they will meet again and she will assist him in completing on-line applications for jobs she has already identified. She will also conduct mock interviews with him and even attend interviews if he desires.

Since he's back home, I'm needing to get busy finally and help him find ways to transition from high school, to young adulthood. He is struggling, but knows it it important. I'm going to suggest he reactivate the blog he started in high school and share his journey as a way to process and also to help other older teens and young adults navigating the waters of this challenging life transition.

I've shared here some resources I have explored in the past and will revisit in the weeks ahead. I hope this information is beneficial. Please feel free to leave a comment regarding both on-line and print resources as well as any local groups you know of. (Please indicate your City)

Asperger's Syndrome Resources - Great list of websites and books

Wrong Planet.net - the only social networking site for individuals (and their parents) on the Autism spectrum.

Autism Society of America - News, headlines and resources for "all things Autism"

Autism Speaks - Information about Autism, activities for raising awareness (and money), advocating for individuals with Autism

Autistic and Healthy - Education, nutrition, studies, resources and consulting

Local Member in the News - A local (Richmond, VA) member of Autism Speaks shares his story

New Theories of Autism/Asperger Syndrome - New York Times article about some ground-breaking research and news.

Blessings on your journey,