Parenting children is tough. Parenting children with special needs often adds a new dimension to the challenges and struggles of parenting, for both parent and child.
Some time ago when my son was about 6 or 7 years old I was experiencing the challenge of it on an every day basis. I thought I had seen and heard everything by then. Boy, was I wrong! Each day brought new sights and sounds that were even more challenging than the day before.
Dare I say I was tired? I was beyond tired. I was exhausted and exasperated. Nothing I did was helpful and the behaviors continued to escalate. They began at the crack of dawn when he woke up and continued until the moment he fell asleep each night.
One particularly difficult day, after my son went to school, I sat down and just wept, emptying my heart to the Lord, wondering how I was going to muster up the strength to continue and feeling like a complete failure. The Lord reminded me of what I tell others: “Failure is an event, not a person.”
“Help me Lord,” I pleaded. “I don’t know what else to do.” I felt as if I’d tried everything, all to no avail. I was ready to wave the white flag and surrender, to throw in the towel and give up. “I’ve tried everything,” I said, “and nothing is helpful.”
The truth is, while I love my children dearly, at that particular time, I wasn’t liking my son. And as sad as that is to admit—to myself or anyone—it was the truth. Because my son’s behaviors were so challenging so often, I wasn’t “finding” any joy in our relationship. I was struggling as a mom and it didn’t feel good. It was a very low point for me.
In that still, small voice, though, I heard the Lord telling me to look at my child through His eyes. What would that do, I wondered? I wasn’t sure if it would change the behaviors, but I was sure willing to give it a try. I’d try anything right about then.
An interesting thing happened that day. No, it wasn’t a miracle. And my son’s behaviors didn’t change. But something did change. Me.
When I looked at my son and each of my children through the eyes of God, my perspective changed. Instead of focusing on what was wrong, I began to see all that was right. Sure, sometimes I had to look for it, but when I looked, it was there for me to see.
Where I used to see defiance, I now saw attention-getting. Where I used to see unkind words, I now saw a heart needing forgiveness for words it couldn’t stop saying. Where I used to see challenges, now I saw opportunities.
Opportunities to teach tiny life lessons in tiny little moments, to look at the struggle from the perspective of my child and to see what he sees. Opportunities to make the best of a tough situation and teach my children to do the same, to look for the positive in everything, even when you have to look very, very hard to find it. Opportunities to love, encourage, forgive—to have the character of Christ reflected in my very being.
Tall order, isn’t it? But I’ve found that when I do my part—looking through the eyes of God—He does His part—making sure there’s always something wonderful to see.
I can’t tell you that it’s always easy, but I can tell you it’s always worth it. Because of my willingness to look through God’s eyes at my children, I have grown tremendously. And so have our relationships. Not only do we love each other, we now like each other—a lot! Sure, some days are easier than others, but His mercies are new every morning and allow me to begin anew each and every morning, with new focus and new perspective.
It sure has been a journey, this thing called life. Especially with my family. Whether the journey’s been hard or easy isn’t important anymore. What is important is what I learn along the way.