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To Moms Like Me Whose Children's Special Needs Are Emotional

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Moms who have said yes to a child whose early years were full of brokenness, I know the hard road you’re walking. We welcomed our daughter into our home through adoption in 2009. She was not quite 3. She’s now almost 10, and though years of love have allowed many wounds to heal, there are still scars.

Maybe it’s been one of those days. I have them, too. Days when you feel like everything you thought you knew about being a mom isn’t working. Days when you feel like you need to go back to “Mom School.” Days when you feel that surely someone else out there could mother your child better than you are right now. I know. I get it.

Here’s the bottom line. You’re it. You’re the one who’s there in the morning waiting to see if your child is going to wake up in a good mood or a bad mood. You’re the one who shakes your head because your child is hungry, crying for food, yet rejects everything you offer. You’re the one who cringes a tiny bit when you ask your child for a hug because you’re bracing yourself for being rejected again. You’re the one who is exhausted because it’s been one of those days when your child actually does want you — not only wants you, but won’t let you breath for a minute, and panics if you leave the room.

I reminded myself recently that I need to view my child’s emotional limitations and woundedness the same way I would view a physical limitation or wound. I wouldn’t dream of getting upset with a paralyzed child for not being able to get up out of his wheelchair. I wouldn’t dream of yelling at a child with spinal issues because she can’t sit up straight. It sounds ridiculous. And yet, because my child’s wound is hidden, I forget some moments, some days, that it is a wound indeed. It’s not my child’s fault that she was deprived of the basic first needs of life — love, touch, words of affirmation, exercise, nutrition, peaceful sleep. It’s just not her fault. My child is not out to get me. My child just doesn’t know how to love or be loved, but she’s learning. My child doesn’t trust and struggles with fears that I may never truly understand.

The term “special needs” can take on a whole new meaning with an emotionally wounded child. Special needs like needing to say my name over and over and over again just to reassure herself that I am indeed “Momma.” Special needs like the need to push my buttons or repeat behavior, just to see if I will reject her; because rejection is so familiar and for some crazy reason feels safe. Special needs like pressing herself hard into my body with an awkward, tense snuggle because she’s just learning how to snuggle and the sensation of being close to someone warm and safe is overwhelming. It’s good; it’s scary. I like it; it’s unfamiliar.

A wise man once told me, “Your weak love is better than no love at all.” I remind myself of this on those days when I feel like I just blew it all the way around. I didn’t really blow it. I was there. I held her. I fed her. I played. I may not have done it all perfectly, but who does. You’ve had those days, too. Remember though, tomorrow is a new day. Another chance to stress less and love more. Another chance to see more clearly and not take it personally. Another chance to have a sense of humor instead of a meltdown.

Hey moms like me, you’re doing it. It’s hard work. You’re not alone. You’re loving those who outsiders may have deemed “unlovable.” You’re looking beyond what you see on the outside and not giving up until you find what’s on the inside. I’m really proud of us.

P.S. You’re not alone. I promise.

couple with child in field

Follow this journey on From the Heart.

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Originally published: March 27, 2016
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