Overnight, I went from mom of "normal" children to an adoptive parent and special needs mother. Although we knew of Anah's special need, we didn't know what that really meant. It's one thing on paper and pictures and another in real life. We could not fathom how it would change our lives. And we are only just beginning! I had been posting on my personal Facebook account of some of the challenges and special little glimpses of joy that we were able to witness over these first three weeks of being adoptive parents. Little by little, reality is beginning to sink in for all of us. My choice is to either accept that reality or to reject it. There are times when I mourn for my "old" life, one in which I was just beginning to gain some freedom as my four-year-old has become more independent. I don't have to watch him constantly anymore. He can respond to simple commands and even help out with family chores. Now that is all changing again.
One thing I have to remind myself is that Anah will get there too. It may take her longer, but as her mother, one of my jobs is to train her to take care of herself. With that vision before me and His hope, we tackle each day as it comes. She has proven herself quite capable of learning and following a routine. She is teachable, quick to forgive, and playful.
But with some things, it hasn't been so easy with the added layer of language on top of adoption. What would be easy to explain in English to a toddler is often met with a blank stare. Our biggest struggle this week has been toilet training. I had just gone through toilet training Jonathan a couple years ago and it was not pleasant but at least he understood what I was saying. Now, we need to go through this again but find a new way of communicating. It's not that she can't use the toilet. It's just that we either don't know when she needs to go or she fails to tell us.
So we have been praying, asking God for wisdom on how to bridge this gap. He is teaching me how to break down what I think are little steps into even smaller ones. He is planting ideas to try so that we can get our message across. He is showing me how to create a routine that I repeat over and over so that she can know what to expect. He is also teaching me how to understand her nonverbal cues and efforts to communicate.
Yet in all this, I need to remember that while we can plot and scheme, plan and schedule all we like, it is when we work in conjunction with God, even in these "little" things, that we will see improvement and change. Parenting--whether a special needs child or not--is always a work of God. We are just the instruments He uses, the arms and legs, the voice, the flesh and blood, that our kids need.
Over and over, God has had to teach me and remind me that my children are not robots. From helping my little girl (now almost 16!) sleep through the night to teaching my wiggly boy to read to training my impatient preschooler how to wait, these are all things He will do in His time. I get to join in as they go on that journey.
If we all think about it, each of our children have a special need. Aside from their spiritual need, some have trouble with their vision, some have trouble reading. Some struggle with their math facts or have a fear of the dark. Some special needs are short-lived or not very obvious. Some require special treatment, some are lifelong. And some are still puzzles yet to be solved.
I am trusting that with the Lord, He will be able to guide us through each of the challenges that we are going to face. This is true whether my children, your children, our children, have an obvious "special need" or not. The One who created them will be faithful to help us to love, nurture, train, discipline and teach them. He knows how to help them even when we do not.
And on this we can rest our hope.