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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Their Special Needs Aren't a Big Deal

Their special needs aren't a big deal? What? Really? Yes, really!

One thing that has surprised me the most about our adoption is that the kids' special needs do NOT feel like a big deal. It came as a surprise because when God first opened my eyes to adopting a child with special needs, I had all these fears about parenting a child with special needs and how hard it would be. Even during our first week home, the weight of the reality of our daughter's needs was bearing heavily on me. But after a few weeks in, her special needs didn't even feel like a big deal. It just felt like normal life.

(Disclaimer: This is our personal experience. This is not to say that there are never hard moments because there are, but for us most of the hard moments are typical kid things-- you know, the temper tantrums and all that good stuff. And I am aware that this is not the case for every family with children with special needs.)

Their special needs don't make our days harder, but they did change what our days look like. We have a new normal. Life moves at a slower pace. And I like that. I bring one child down and then go upstairs to bring the other child down since they both cannot walk. Part of our new normal is moving our daughter's limbs very carefully and slowly, especially in the morning, so her muscles don't tighten up on her.  Another part of our normal is meal time taking longer than it used to.  We teach them both skills that another child might pick up on their own without any parental intervention. But learning how to teach the kids new skills isn't that hard. It's not a big deal. (Granted, I'm one of those weird people who loves change and learning new things. ;))

I often forget that the kids even have special needs. To me, it's just a part of who they are. Part of who they are is someone who can't walk and talk right now. And when and if they do walk or talk, that will be part of who they are too. They have big personalities that aren't hindered by their physical or even their cognitive limitations.

But do you know what feels like a much bigger deal than parenting a child with special needs? Parenting a wounded child (or two, in this case) does. 
Hubs and I will both tell you that for us parenting hurt children is much harder than parenting children with special needs.  Maybe part of it is that it breaks our hearts seeing and knowing their hurt.

Getting to their hearts, figuring out why they are responding the way they are in this or that situation, and having the wisdom to know what it looks like to help them through the situation is much more work than working with their special needs. Moving toward a child with compassion and continuing pursuing them when they don't or can't return our love and affection can be so stinkin' hard. Watching them and seeing that they don't know how to play, how to be a kid, is heartbreaking.

I knew being raised in an orphanage would affect them greatly, but nothing prepared me for the reality of it. And although they are generally happy, it is so very obvious that they are not carefree children. They have never had the luxury of being carefree, to enjoy life and enjoy being loved.

Both kids struggle with insecurity and fear, and why not? They most likely never had a secure relationship in their lives. They never had anyone they could trust. They had no one to teach them it is okay to trust safe people.  They struggle with stimming, anger, and self-protective behaviors.  They fight against us, forgetting that we are fighting for them, that we have their best interests in mind and they can entrust themselves to us (isn't this the same thing we do to the Lord?). 

Six months cannot heal five and a half years of pain.  It is going to take a long time for our children to heal. They have been through so much in their short lives. Abandonment. Neglect. Other possible abuse. Malnutrition. And the trauma of adoption and leaving everything they have ever known behind to come to a strange, new place with strange, new people.

All of those losses affect a child deeply. It may take years or a lifetime to heal and that is okay. They may never heal this side of glory, and that's okay. That's the Lord's job, not ours. But we will pray and work the rest of our lives to be instruments in God's hands to facilitate their healing in any way possible. And although parenting hurting children is tough, they are totally worth every hard moment and every tear we have cried, and we would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

**To read more about how traumatic adoption can feel for a child, read this article about some orphans feel kidnapped when they are adopted:

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