This past week I was invited to speak at an event for First Steps, which is the state run services that offer in-house therapies that we use. First Steps has been a wonderful resource for us: E sees 4 different FS therapists every week, and they each adore her and cheer her on in such a meaningful way. They come into our world, with me in sweatpants, E with food stains and still in her pajamas, floor untouched by a vacuum and they work with E. They teach her to play with her toys, feed her our food, and listen to my ramblings. They set purposeful, achievable goals for E and make sure that Ben and I are not just observers, but that we are an integral part of her therapy and growth. Sadly, E will no longer be eligible for services when she turns 3, when we will transition her to a preschool.
The event that I spoke at was addressing that transitional time, from home to preschool, and they wanted a parent’s input. I had a rough outline of what I would say, even a couple of jokes on the backburner. However, I got to the place where I was supposed to tell them what my hopes and fears looking at this looming transition are… and I stood there, blank for a second. Then, it came to me.
“I want her to be known, and to be loved.”
Then, my very poised, eloquent speech went tumbling down into the pit of “oh gosh what have I done, now I can’t stop crying”. I had to laugh at myself in the moment. I am NOT a graceful crier; I’m talking mascara running, snotty nose and crimson face and a pitchy, blubbery voice… and so there I was, in front of a room full of people… straight up ugly crying.
Once I composed myself, I was able to explain what I meant. My deepest desire for E is that she will be known and will be loved, but it is also what keeps me awake at night.
I know I must be echoing the heart of every Mama and Papa out there, whether you’re parenting special needs or typical children. Isn’t that all we want for our kids from the moment we learn about them? We pray that they will be known and loved. That they will never feel alone. That they will always know their worth. That they will thrive even when they’re not with us… especially when they’re not with us.
When I drop her off at preschool, elementary, middle, high school… will she be known? When I’m not there to point her out, make her smile, or to tell an endearing story about her will people care as much? Will they see her, see her for who she is and not differences? Will they treasure her smiles, notice her cleverness, and seek her out? Will she have friends? Or will she just be the special needs girl that others tend to avoid or perhaps worse, just have pity on?
Special needs parenting adds a deeper level of vulnerability. E may never be able to tell me how she is feeling. She may never be able to tell me when she’s sad or feeling lonely, or if she had a hard day or if others treat her right. As she ages, she will most likely be known for her needs rather than by her name. She runs the risk of being forgotten, overlooked, part of the mundane, and most painfully, seen as a burden to some. My heart is that she will continue to be known for her joy, her relaxed nature, and her perseverance. That others will know her and love her just as much as I do.
This is where I cry the loudest to the Lord in the dark of the night. The most beautiful part of my walk with Him is the firm knowledge that I am intimately known and deeply loved by HIM, the Creator of the universe. His love and knowledge of E is no different. His awareness of her surpasses my own, from how she is feeling, down to the potential hairs on her little bald head. Just as He sends others to care for me, He will do the same for her. Just as He has walks with me through the valleys of my life, He will walk with her down school hallways… because she was His girl before she was mine.