Friday I attended a mothering seminar I never dreamed I’d attend. In all my years of fantasizing about being a mom, I never fantasized about this aspect. My seminar was called “Adaptable Dwellings: Living With Special Needs Children.”
Special needs. I took a Teaching The Exceptional Child class in college. I blocked in a middle school resource classroom. I knew that, as a teacher, I’d adapt to special needs children in my classroom. I just never imagined adapting my home to special needs children. In all my mommy-dreams, not once did I dream for my own children to be “special” in that sort of way.
Yet there I sat on Friday among other mothers whose reality also didn’t quite match up to the dreams. We shared ideas and resources. We bonded. As one mother spoke, each mother in the circle nodded her head. Some mother’s eyes filled with tears, so relieved to finally be surrounded by other mothers who understood.
Three days earlier, one young mother had received the news that her preschool son is indeed autistic. On her face, I saw familiar expressions — dismay, confusion, sadness, a this-is-not-at-all-what-I-expected sort of look in her eyes. I vividly remember the day I realized my little Rachel had Tourette Syndrome. It was even before we saw the neurologist.
Her speech therapist had sweetly asked me earlier that day, “Does Rachel have allergies?”
“Well,” I began, “we thought she did, but she’s been on this allergy medicine for over a month, but she still keeps sniffing and clearing her throat and blinking. I plan to call our doctor to ask what he thinks.”
Kindly and calmly, the therapist said, “I don’t think she has allergies. I think you should call your doctor today and make an appointment.”
So I called our doctor and explained the whole situation to him. I described the behaviors. By now, my mind had already jumped to the possibility of TS, and I wanted to be sure to give my doctor the whole picture. So I described every behavior, everything possible that could be connected — her twirling when she got nervous, the bedwetting that sort of came from nowhere, her impulsiveness. I hoped beyond hope that he would reassure me that these were all normal phases and he was sure she’d be ok. He didn’t say that. Instead, he said, “I really think you should go ahead and see a neurologist. This sounds beyond my area of expertise. We can make that appointment for you since you will need a referral.”
As I pushed “off” on the phone, the tears began to fall. I trusted God, and I knew deep within myself that He would get us through whatever lay ahead; but at that moment, my dreams for my little girl began to unravel. I remember crying into the phone as I talked with my mom. “I don’t want Rachel to be different. I don’t want other children to make fun of her.” I sobbed. “I don’t want life to be extra difficult for her.” I sobbed harder.
As I looked around the room full of mothers in that seminar, I knew that each of those women had experienced those same feelings. It felt good to feel surrounded by people who understand.
We’ve had some time to get used to the idea of Tourette Syndrome. We know it’s not the end of the world. Things could be much worse. But, to be honest, there are still moments when I cry. As I watch my little girl struggle with social situations — stand too closely as she talks to someone, touch someone too much. As I watch her adjust her shin-guards for the 100th time during her soccer game. As I watch her obsessively sign the alphabet during a soccer game. As I hear her grunt or click over and over again. As I watch her face stretch and her eyes roll. Sometimes I cry. When she comes to me crying because her mouth hurts from her biting the inside, I ache for her. Mommas like to make things all better, and this is not a boo-boo I can kiss away.
This isn’t the dream I had for Rachel. But our Sovereign God has allowed this for her, and He loves her even more than I do. That is a truth I must repeat to myself when I get discouraged, when I cry, when I ache. No, it’s not my dream, but always God’s Providence is better than my dreams are. I’m counting on it. And I know a room full of women who are counting on that truth.