My son James and his cousin Conner were born less than two weeks apart. For the first two years of their lives, it was fun to compare milestones and achievements. James’s first word was book and Conner’s was ball. Their first steps came right around their first birthday parties. We talked about what good friends they would be as they got older.
But as they grew, James stopped hitting the typical milestones. Soon after his third birthday he was diagnosed with autism. Instead of getting excited when the cousins got together to play, I would dread it. I didn’t want to see the evidence of James’s struggles. I didn’t want to hear about potty training success and soccer goals and prereading skills. Since we now live hours away and only see those cousins a couple times a year, I’m not faced with the dread as often. It has faded into a memory.
But one summer, we planned a trip with our family to the beach, and cousin Conner was going to come along. I called up my prayer-warrior friends and explained how hard the trip would be for me. I would have to see how far behind James is from other kids his age. I would have to see Conner and our older son David play together, and imagine how David and James would play if James were a typical five-year-old. I would have to fight against doubt, jealousy, and bitterness. That did not sound like the ideal vacation.
I braced myself as we met Conner at Wendy’s. He walked up to the counter and ordered his own kids meal. Since James was (by his choice) a vegetarian and (by our choice) gluten free, I always had to pack his meals when we eat out. I knew the differences would start there, but they wouldn’t end there.
Surprisingly, the feelings I had braced myself for didn’t come. James sat at the table just like Conner did and ate his lunch. I sat and ate my lunch, amazed that James was actually sitting instead of trying to get up and run around. I didn’t think about how much more advanced Conner was than James, I just thought about what James was doing that day that he couldn’t do a few months before. I saw his progress as progress, and not as still delayed from what his cousin could do.
Special-needs parenting was a Plan B situation that God uses to help me become the person He wants me to be. I’m thankful that by His grace, sometimes our worst-case scenarios turn out to be not so bad.
Do you have a worst-case scenario running through your head right now? A situation you dread? Leave a comment. We would love to lift you up in prayer today!
Sandra Peoples is a pastor’s wife and mom to two boys. She’s the author of Held: Learning to Live in God’s Grip (a Bible study for special-needs parents) and the upcoming new release, Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special-Needs Family.