I have struggled through this blog post. Seriously. Every. Single. Word. That’s because this particular blog post has caused me to be very vulnerable, very transparent. What’s wrong with vulnerability or transparency? Absolutely nothing. In fact, I consider myself a pretty transparent person. I strive to live with authenticity as much as I can. I certainly don’t shy away from opening up about things and sharing my story…or so I thought.
I thought I didn't mind sharing until it came to this. This one thing that, until the last few weeks, I didn't realize was such a struggle for me. It would be very easy for me to tuck “this thing” away, keep it to myself, and not share it will all of you. But that wouldn't be holding true to the very purpose of my blog which is to offer encouragement to parents who are living with children “on the spectrum”, but also to offer understanding and insight into the life of a special needs family- the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, I have decided to share…
I did it. I asked for help.
Just so you know, I do not struggle with asking for help in most areas of my life. If I have a question at work, I will ask it. If I need help on a project, I will ask for help. If I have a problem with my car, I am certainly not about to touch it. It has never been a goal of mine to portray myself as “Miss Independent”. I have no problem asking for help!
…except when it comes to taking care of my home and my family. To me, this is one area that I should be able to excel in without someone’s help. It is my honor and privilege to take care of these things. In fact, I love it! I love cooking, cleaning, ironing, and folding laundry. There is something about seeing fresh lines in the carpet from the vacuum cleaner that makes my heart happy. I love being home when my children are out of school. It fills my heart with joy to snuggle up with my two kiddos to read a good book or to play a game. But the fact of the matter is, it is really hard to do all this as a parent of a special needs child.
I hope by now (if you have read my previous blog posts) that you have no doubt how much I absolutely love my precious little boy (who has Autism). I consider him one of my most precious blessings. I also consider it such an honor that the Lord would entrust such a special child to me! Having a child with Autism has given us a whole new perspective on life, love, and what matters most.
That does not mean that it is not hard.
In our particular case, being the parent of a special needs child means that as soon as I try to make tea for dinner, my little boy is trying to pull the boiling water of the stove. It means that I cannot turn my head for very long for fear that he might try to escape out the door. It means that there are fewer home cooked meals and lots more fast food meals because we have to ride in the car to calm him down. It means many sleepless nights. It means that while trying to accomplish even the smallest of tasks, my precious child is throwing his toy trains at the walls, the windows, the TV, and at his sister. It means occasional aggression, frustration, and anger spewing forth from a little four year old boy. It demands monthly paperwork and logs enough to be considered a full time job. It means that by the time my little ones are asleep in bed, I don’t have the energy left to accomplish all the many things that need to be taken care of.
It’s not all the time. But generally, if I am occupied with anything other than him, he begins to fall apart. Because he does not have the language to express himself with words, he tells me with his body that he just does not know what to do with himself.
Because both of my children are so very precious to me and out of obvious necessity, I chose them first.
So, the dishes had begun to stack up. The floor sometimes looked like a treasure hunt. There came days that my entire family was going to have to go our various ways naked, stay home-naked, or wear three-day-already-worn clothes. There were a lot of unwritten blogs. Chili Frito Pies became a delicacy in our household. Once evening came, I could hardly keep my eyes open. I am supposed to be able to manage all this! I am supposed to be able to control my child’s behavior. This is my number one job! Why do I feel as though I am doing nothing well? The one thing that I had taken so much pride in doing, I realized I wasn't able to do. I had to ask for help. I had to let go of some pride-something I thought I never really had an issue with.
Here is something else you should know about us special needs parents: #1 We trust very few people with our children. #2 There are few who we would feel comfortable with having come into our home on a consistent basis. This is not an issue you can push. It is what it is. We are protective of our little ones and protective of our not-so-ordinary lives.
I prayed and prayed for the Lord to provide just the right person. I knew it would have to be a person who understood the situation, who understood Ezra, and who had a very big heart. The Lord provided. A very dear friend of ours agreed to be my “helping hands”. She has come in and helped me with laundry. She has helped with the dishes and with cleaning. She has been my second set of hands during the kids bath time (this activity always requires two adults). She played with my little girl so she would not have to play by herself during her little brother’s in-home therapy session.
The first time I walked in to a clean house and an unloaded dishwasher, my eyes welled up with tears. You may think I’m trying to embellish this story, but I’m not. The time I was able to have help bathing my kiddos, our family was able to spend extra time in the evening playing together. In the last week, I have been able to bring my children home from school and just play with them and give them the attention they need without the heaviness of wondering how on earth I was going to have all the other things done that needed to be done for my home to function properly. There has been less chaos and more order.
Yes, it was very hard for me to get to the place of having to ask for help. Yes, I have been a bit embarrassed to admit that I can’t do it all. But I am now realizing that it just might be an ok thing, healthy even. I find it almost liberating.
Believe me, there are still many things this special needs mom has to take care of, but what a blessing it is to have someone help to lighten my load. I praise the Lord for my sweet friend and her “helping hands”. I am truly thankful that the Lord continues to use this Autism journey to mold me and refine me…even when it’s not easy and sometimes requires me to let go of some things, such as pride.
If you know a family that has a special needs child, pray about how you might be able to minister to them. Don’t expect a thank you card-they are deeply grateful, they just don’t have an extra second to sit down and write a complete sentence. Even the smallest gesture is a big deal. A word of encouragement, a trip to the grocery store for them, or a cooked meal can make such a huge difference in the life of a special needs family. Just be there for them. Let them know that it’s ok to ask for help!