The week after my child was diagnosed with autism, I held it together for a few days and then sobbed uncontrollably while speaking to my friend/psychologist over the phone. I stood in the bathroom where I went to talk alone and gazed at my swollen eyes and red face in the mirror. I was in a panic because my child was three and had missed out on some intensive early intervention as her diagnoses was uncertain for over a year. I was afraid she was doomed to a less-than-ideal life because of the delay and wondered what my next step should be. I wondered if perhaps she would be best served by a special live-in sort of program.
What my psychologist friend told me next was wise. She told me that a loving, secure family environment was just as beneficial as well-directed early intervention and that my daughter was blessed to be in our family setting. This comforted me. I had somehow forgotten how much a secure and loving home contributes to a child’s development (even without intense early intervention). I think I overlooked this because I was lucky enough to be raised in such a family.
As parents of children with a variety of challenges, we often feel the need to be super-parents. We function as case managers, advocates, researchers, special education teachers, and more. This is in addition to carrying the basic responsibilities of parenting. When I was a young mom, I sometimes felt inadequate because I could not teach everything to my daughter by myself. Professionals were helpful, but they did not have the drive and commitment to provide the best possible therapies.
Fast forward several years—this morning as I sat next to my desk my eyes fell on a scripture I once clipped on a file folder. It was I Timothy 3:14, which reads “Neglect not the gift that is in thee.” I put it there a few years ago to remind me of what God expects of me personally—and to not shrink from the directive of using my gifts. At the time, I put it there to remind me to use my gifts not only in parenting but for other purposes.
Today the verse reminds me that I, in myself, am a gift to my children.
It is not just what I teach or arrange or organize to meet their needs. It is not just the food I prepare or that the work that my husband does to pay for their home and meals. These are important and wonderful things, but I want to remind you today that your emotional and physical presence are some of your most powerful assets.
Yes, you may need to leave your children to work or attend to other responsibilities. This is ok because If your children connect to you and feel you are a safe person when you are together, you are a gift. You don't need a perfect personality, or to act like a social director or case manager for your child all the time. Your emotional, spiritual and physical presence is often good enough.
Depending on their challenges or developmental stage, you may not feel apprecated, but that is not the point. The fact remains that God knew what He was doing when He put your son or daughter into your hands. He intends for you to be a gift to your child.
With that in mind, take care of yourself—physically, spiritually and emotionally. Inevitably, you will become overwhelmed from all that needs to be accomplished to support your child.
It’s ok. It’s really ok.
You, not what you do, are a gift to your child.
Dr. Karen Crum brings hope and practical support to parents through her blog and award-winning book, Persevering Parent: Finding Strength to Raise Your Child with Social, Emotional or Behavioral Challenges. Join her blog and link to her book at www.PerseveringParent.com.