When Special Needs Parenting Feels Like "Groundhog Day"

I love sharing the highs and lows of the special needs parents journey with other moms of faith.  It’s so refreshing to talk about where we’ve been, what we’ve overcome, and even where we messed up but God’s grace brought us through. I was recently having one of those conversations with a mom whose child has a very different diagnosis from mine, but with whom I can still find so much common ground.  We all fight fear and battle uncertainty, and often, as she pointed out, the disappointment of nothing changing. 


My friend mentioned a recent IEP meeting, where the goals and struggles sounded exactly like the previous year’s IEP meeting, and the year before that too! My son, Nick, is now 18 years old.  Every year on the top of his educational list is: letter recognition. He not only can’t read yet, but he doesn't recognize letters or their sounds, so reading seems a million miles away. But every year, I hopefully put it back on the to-do list.  Did I mention he’s 18? We’ve been attempting, and failing, that goal for a really long time.

As I pondered all the of areas in Nick’s development that appear stagnant, I remembered the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day,” where he wakes up every morning to the same date on the calendar.  He keeps going to bed and expecting something new, but it’s just a replay of the previous day.

Oftentimes the special needs journey can feel like we’re living in that movie. Bathing, personal hygiene, dressing, preparing meals and all the other daily living activities I’ve been doing for 18 years, with little to no progress in independence or improvement, can start to wear down my spirit.  While I am hopeful that Nick can and will continue to gain new skills, there are days when I’m not even looking for it, I’m just doing it all over again like the day before. To keep the movie theme going, one of my favorite quotes from the new “Mary Poppins Returns” movie is: “The quicker you’re into it, the quicker you’re out of it.” That philosophy sums up many of my days around here. 

However, we are promised something very different by Jesus.  In his conversation with the woman at the well, a woman who seems to have been making the same mistake over and over again in her own “Groundhog Day” way, He spoke these words:

“But whosoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14 NIV.  

The Message Bible puts it this way: “... an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” Sounds like the perfect cure for a “Groundhog Day” mindset! We are promised springs gushing with endless life inside our very being, so there need not be hopelessness in the midst of the mundane, even when the circumstances around us are unchanging. 

Today I’m choosing to tap into that spring. Rather than use my natural eyes as a filter for assessing progress, I’m going to press into that life-giving flow and know that if He is a river, constantly flowing, then there is no stagnation in the spirit, and there needs to be none within me either.      

Written by Melanie Gomez