When you have children with special needs, everyday is an adventure. Sometimes, the adventure is exciting. Other days, it’s frustrating. Simple things that most people take for granted, like walking into a church, are an uphill climb. We personally climbed this hill for years before making progress. We’re still climbing in many regards. The biggest question we’ve wrestled with is, how do you function while making sure your children’s needs are fully met? This is a post by Kristin, who has lived on the front lines of our children’s special needs.
Today I’m embarking on a battle. I know I look a little frazzled. I truly did put make-up on …two hours ago. It takes at least an hour to coax my newly adopted son from the house to the car. The quick stop at the Dunkin Donuts drive-through was a special treat for me even though I knew it would put us even more behind.
We roll into the church parking lot and I begin winding in and out among rows of neatly parked cars. There has to be a space a little closer I think. I’ll never make it from the back of the parking lot. Who am I kidding? We haven’t actually made it into the church in 7 weeks. I see one but I’m too late. I’ve got to squeeze the 12 passenger van in somewhere. Finally I see the spot and make my way there. My 18 month old has already started his protest.
“NONONONONONONONO” he whimpers, “too loud.”
I squeeze into the last parking space and silently congratulate myself, I’ve left at least 8 inches of space between the driver’s door and the neighboring car. “Thank goodness this donut is the only thing I’ve had a chance to eat in days, I’m getting skinnier by the minute!” I know I won’t be getting out of the car anytime soon but I have to appreciate my own sense of humor. I’ve been spending a lot of time alone these days, I’m the only one to laugh at me. I chew that last bite and prepare for the next phase of my Sunday morning battle.
My little guy is escalating now. The whimpers have become a series of low growls. My other five children know the drill. They unbuckle, zip up coats and pile into the back seat to read books while the baby and I spend the next hour getting accustomed to the church parking lot.
I unbuckle my son from his 5 point and cradle him in my lap while talking in a soft voice. I send a quick text to my husband to let him know we’re here if he gets a chance to come get the other kids. We’re a pastor’s family so we know that he’s busy inside and may not even get a chance to read the text until church is over for the day. We know he’s under criticism because no one has seen his family since we adopted our little sons. We want to enter the church and stand by his side, but I can already tell it’s not going to happen this day.
“Too loud, too loud,” cries my son, pointing to the church entrance. “No go Mommy.”
“We’re not going inside today,” I sooth. “We’re just here visiting the parking lot.” I realize how silly this all sounds as I say it. The loneliness starts to sink in. I rock him for a long while. Eventually I feel his body relax. This is amazing improvement. I want to brag about how far he’s come but there’s no one who will understand. I can’t wait to tell my husband at lunch. I call the other children onto the front bench seat. We have a routine of Bible stories, prayer and songs. I’m a terrible singer so I know my big kids are praying for the day their little brother can get out of the car without a complete meltdown.
We’ve been working with a trauma informed therapist for the last 6 months with our son. She is helping us to understand the trauma in his background. She is willing to incorporate his diagnosis of ARND (Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder) and ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) into his treatment. She has put together a plan to help with everything from meal time to getting dressed to choosing a favorite snack.
Last month our only goal was to drive to the church parking lot each Sunday and then head for home. The month before that was to drive to the empty parking lot and go home. This month we are sitting in the packed parking lot but not going inside. Next month we’ll go inside the empty church and so on.
Our therapist is helping us to slow down and celebrate the small wins. Today I’m celebrating this win. He’s happily sitting on my lap in the front seat of the van. His brothers and sisters are taking turns reading out loud and my heart is full. We have a beautiful family. I catch a glimpse of my mascara streaked face and realize today’s battle has been won.
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