“I don’t know how you do it.” “I could never do what you do.” “God knew just what He was doing when He gave Jordan to you. He knew you could handle it.”
I’ve heard these phrases more than once and by different people. How about you? You have heard them too, right? These phrases or ones like them are commonly heard by us special-needs parents. I know they are said by good-hearted people meaning to encourage me, but that’s not how my heart responds.
When I hear, “I don’t know how you do it,” my heart responds, “Neither do I. I’m barely surviving.”
When I hear, “I could never do what you do,” my heart responds, “What other option do I have? I do it because it must be done.”
When I hear, “God knew just what He was doing when he gave Jordan to you. He knew you could handle it,” my heart responds, “God may have known what he was doing. But from my perspective, I’m thinking God might have been a little crazy the day he made that decision.”
Why does my heart respond so viscerally to these statements? Because they imply that I’m supermom. That I’ve got it all together. That these extra challenges in life around having a child with additional needs are not much of a challenge to me.
What they don’t know is how much our hearts are aching. How much doubt we carry. That we don’t know what to do. Don’t know how to help our child. Don’t know what the future holds for our child or for us. They don’t see the house that hasn’t been cleaned well in, umm, I don’t know because I’m just too tired to get to that. They don’t see that I’m just surviving today, this hour, this minute. I can’t think about 5 minutes from now, tomorrow, next month or next year. And so many other areas where I drop the ball and fall short in all the normal “mom” duties.
We may drop the ball on cleaning the house or having a Pinterest-worthy birthday celebration for our kids, but we are advocating for our kiddo in meetings with therapists, educators, and doctor appointments. We are figuring out how to help them every way we can and when plan A doesn’t work, going to plan B and plan C. In fact, in order to make a trip to the grocery store, we may need to have prepared a plan A, B and C just in case. We are the child’s biggest cheerleader and strongest support, whether the child knows it or not. We know that child better than anyone else in the world. And love them deeply, unconditionally, sacrificially.
Yes, we have a different focus than most moms. I’ll never be a soccer mom. I’ll forever be a green beret with some different bullet points on my job description from the other moms.
It’s been a few years since I’ve had someone say one of these phrases to me. Life has changed since then. I don’t live in crisis mode all the time anymore. I’ve had the time to stop and reflect and wrestle with God and gain a little perspective on those years.
Did God know what He was doing when he gave me my son with extra needs? Yes, for certain! He knew I would love that boy and do everything I could for him, but I think God knew I needed Jordan more than Jordan needed me. Did He know I could handle it? He knew I absolutely could not handle it.
That’s why He promised to be with me.
Sarah McGuire is the mom of two boys and co-founder of Hope Anew, a nonprofit that comes alongside the parents of children with additional needs on spiritual and emotional level. You can follow Hope Anew on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/hopeinthetrenches/.