This post is a hard one for me to write. I’m just not sure how to advocate for special needs adoption without making it sound as if I am judging those who choose not to have parameters that include special needs. Please know that is not something I feel or do. There are so many decisions that go into making parameters for children you are adopting and I have no doubt that every parent prayerfully makes those decisions with careful thought to their own unique circumstances. End of disclaimer. 😉
There is a great misconception that I have noticed surrounding special needs adoption. It says that in order to adopt a special needs child you must be some kind of super parent. This is wrong and doesn’t help in the cause of advocating for special needs adoption.
The super-parent theory. You know the one – it’s the one that says in order to adopt a child with special needs you must have boundless energy, a pretty cushy bank account, an assistant, a huge home, endless amounts of patience, and more love than just your average parent. This first makes me laugh and then fills me with sadness.
I’m sure I’m not the first to say or think this, but let me clear the air anyway: I am NO super-mom!! Not in any sense of the term am I a super-mom. I get tired a lot. In fact, I think I’ve been a bit tired every moment of the day since we brought home Mareto. Some days I’m just tired and others I’m flat out exhausted… but I don’t have boundless energy. If I could siphon energy out of my two year old I would! Our bank account is anything but fat… especially after two international adoptions! We don’t drive nice new cars and we can’t afford the latest and greatest anything. We can afford our food and bills. Bottom line – we have enough… no more and no less. Our home is wonderful but it’s not a mansion. It’s quite perfect for our family of four if you ask me. We keep things simple and I have no problem throwing things out or sending them on to thrift stores to make room for Mareto’s therapy equipment. We keep the house functional, clean, and fairly easy to organize. I wouldn’t be any happier than I am now in a bigger home.
The idea that you must have more love to give than other parents is trickier. I, of course, think I love my children more than any other mother in the world has ever loved her children. But that’s part of the beauty of motherhood, isn’t it? We love our kids fiercely and assume that no one has ever felt love to this extent before. I have a dear friend with a little boy the same age as my Mareto. They’re actually good buddies. Mareto has special needs that grow more obvious by the day. His buddy is a perfectly normal (and perhaps above average) two year old. Do I have more love for my son than she does for hers? No way. I know we’d both walk through fire for our children.
And as for patience… that’s a learned trait. If it seems that parents of children with special needs have more patience it’s likely because of the testing they have endured that’s taught them the patience. Every day can be a battle when you have a child with disabilities. Meals, bedtime, normal activities… they all require so much more time and planning. Then, when you’ve planned everything to perfection, it still doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to. So patience is learned slowly, day by day. Another dear friend brought us dinner one night during a particularly hard week. I had hoped Mareto would do well so we could have a pleasant time with our friend and we had already discussed with her that she should leave before bed time to avoid issues. But Mareto didn’t do well and in fact he went into full on autism melt down mode. At one point I was kneeling in front of him in the kitchen while my friend stood at the stove. Mareto had lost all control and went from hitting himself in the face to hitting me in the face and scratching at my hair. I was heartbroken and honestly was just trying not to cry in front of our company. Once I got the situation under control I apologized to her and she was so understanding and sweet. She told me I was doing a great job and that I handled things with such grace. I truly didn’t feel I deserved the kind words. The truth is that I don’t know what on earth I’m doing most days and the only way I can handle any of it with any sort of grace is because God is doing it through me. Do I believe that I have more patience now than before we had children? Absolutely. But this is because of years of waiting that forced me to learn patience… it’s because of trial after trial and learning that anger solves nothing. You will not enter into parenthood oozing with patience. You will learn it… day by day, tantrum by tantrum, struggle by struggle. I can’t think of any life experience I’ve had that I was fully prepared to handle before I entered into it. We learn by doing. God often teaches us through experience.
Parenting a child with disabilities is hard. It takes more energy, effort, planning, wisdom, patience, grace, and love than I ever could have imagined.We aren’t born with extra of those traits – they are developed in us through each passing day and each difficult experience. And it’s a gift. Those are Mareto’s gifts to me. Those are Arsema’s gifts to me. I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world.
The best part? I glimpse a bit of heaven in my children. I see how God must look at me. I see that I am broken, helpless, confused, unable… but God looked down at me and said, “I want you” and, in order to redeem me… in order to bring me into his family and love me forever, he had to die. I learn this all over again every day as I die to myself for my children. I lay down my rights, wants, and sometimes needs for them…. to bring them home, to redeem their lives, to love them forever. What the world may have deemed “undesirable” we were able to claim as our own and see that they are beautiful lights in our lives.
In fact, it was their brokenness that made me want them even more. Who wouldn’t want to kiss Arsema’s sweet hands and feet knowing that they were made by a loving Father? She’s beautiful and perfectly made… and she’s mine by the grace of God.
And who wouldn’t delight over Mareto’s sweet innocence and enormous heart? His little brain was made by a God who loves him and knows the best plan for his life. I believe he was given an extra portion of love and he happily gives it away to everyone he meets with no thought to the fact that he is different. Watching him love is a joy.
Parenting a child with special needs may require more of myself than I ever knew possible… but the reward is more than worth it. My children are more than worth it. They are wonderfully made.
Lisa Leonard has very graciously donated one “wonderfully made” necklace to be given away today! This necklace comes from her faith collection that came about because “One mother’s journey of pain and beauty inspired the creation of meaningful, heartfelt jewelry” … as noted on the site. Lisa has a beautiful little boy with special needs. She also knows that he is wonderfully made and a perfect gift.
The necklace in the photo above is mine. I purchased the “m” and “a” initials along with it as a constant reminder to others, myself, and my children that Mareto and Arsema are wonderfully made just as they are. I wear my necklace almost every single day.
Enter to win the “wonderfully made” necklace by leaving a comment below telling us what this necklace would mean for you. Would you purchase any initials to go with it? I’ll announce the winner on Friday – our last day of National Adoption Month here on the blog.