There are many difficult things about raising a special needs child, but I have to tell you: for the most part, it has been fairly easy so far. E is an easy, easy kiddo. She is happy, goes with the flow, loves all foods she eats, recovers well after immunizations, and rarely cries. She is perfectly content to play by herself, happily squealing while looking at a book or opening drawers. Though her life requires much from us, she doesn’t.
To be incredibly honest: it has made me lazy.
Yes, I work with her almost constantly: teaching her how to feed herself and play with toys appropriately. I sing the songs the therapists taught us, and place her in her gait trainer to walk back and forth in. I take her to therapies and specialists and spend many nights googling for treatments.
But my intentionality has waned.
The intentionality that drove me to only listen to worship or classical music while I was pregnant with her, in order to develop her ear for music and her heart for God. The intentionality that filled her bedtime with fantastical stories, in order to build her imagination. The intentionality of me pointing out things in her world to her, in order to instill a sense of wonder.
It has waned because after over 2 years of working with her the results of this intentionality aren’t obvious… and picturing a lifetime of this type of minimal progress is daunting and discouraging.
So, I have recently settled into the “bare minimum” of intentionality. I check off to-do lists that her therapists give me every week, and allow that to be it. I’ve done my part. I am in a state of resigned acceptance of what her diagnosis means.
But today, as I pushed her stroller through our autumn-filled streets… I noticed something.
E was bending over backwards in order to peer at the color saturated trees above her.
She was absolutely delighted at the beauty she saw.
Then I realized that though she has many special needs…
being unable to see isn’t one of them (thankfully).
She most definitely sees the world around her.
She observes, notices, and watches everything.
How had I missed/forgotten that?
I realized that I had forgotten something very important: the person who she observes, notices, and watches the most is me. (Daddy too, but he didn’t have the fall walk epiphany!)
Me. Her Mama with the waning intentionality.
She watches as I cook dinner (read: burn something while doing silly dances). She eats her cheese and her eyes light up each time I turn away from the stove to face her.
She observes as I turn the pages of her books gently during her bedtime story. She watches as I say goodbye to guests and they leave through the front door… and she bursts into tears as they close the door behind them.
She sees the whipped cream at the bottom of my mug, and watches as I dip my finger in it to get her some… and she quickly follows suit with her whole hand.
She notices when I plant a kiss on her Daddy’s cheek (though I probably don’t do that enough), but she adores him, so I must be doing something right. 🙂
And that is the point: E’s world is largely composed of her Papa and me. Though she may not understand every word we speak, she sees us. She is watching us in order for us to show her the world. It is our job to show her what matters, what is safe, what is scary, what is good, what is beautiful.
As we stood under the canopy of leaves, I felt my intentionality begin to build back up. I pointed at the branches above us and listed the many things to see. The fiery red leaves to the golden sunshine that rested upon them. The sturdy bark on the tree. She stared into my face and then turned her face upwards. She was truly taking in what I was pointing out.
May I never forget that despite her obstacles, she sees. May I teach her with intention: to turn her face to the sun, to smile when someone is goofy, to sing with abandon to the Lord… and to see the beauty of the wondrous world around her.