Thursday, April 18, 2013

God Made Me Broken

I'm proud of my son for many reasons: he's an expert Lego builder, he has deep spiritual insight, he has a heart to serve, and he has nearly photographic memory to just name a few. But a story I love to tell as my badge-of-honor so to speak is the fact that he got expelled from preschool. (I take comfort in the fact the Albert Einstein was expelled from high school)

The reason he was expelled was because he was a biter. A lot of kids are, but you want to make sure you don't bite the wrong parent's child. We learned that at that age, biting is an expression of frustration because the young boy or girl cannot yet talk to communicate their wants and needs. That described my son perfectly- he didn't communicate... for a very long time.

Once enrolled in elementary school, we started him in a speech program. It was several months later during a meeting to review his IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that his speech teacher dropped this bomb.

"He told me 'God made me broken!'" My jaw dropped. He understood that he was different. He knew he struggled to communicate and that affected his friendships and his performance at school. He knew something was wrong.

As a parent, the temptation is to question what you might have done to cause it. I tore myself up over it. Did I not show him enough love? Did I not roughhouse with him often enough? Did I not take enough time every night before he went to bed to read to him?

Of course while I was busy kicking myself, I forgot that there were physical issues as well- he had torticollis (a strain in the neck that keeps one from turning their head all the way or holding their head up straight) and he had ankyloglossia (was tongue-tied) which required a frenulectomy (to cut the tissue under his tongue). The latter was so bad that he could not completely chew his food and would sometimes choke. Both, obviously, contributed to his late speech.

But he wasn't a doctor, so how was he supposed to know that this was relatively common? He was my firstborn, so how was I to know I didn't do something wrong? The stress and struggle we went through as a family during this time felt immeasurable. And it set the stage for later (yes, you're going to have to come back and read another post).

What did I learn through all of this? I wish I could say something as lofty and noble as "trust God!" but I can't. I learned a lot about myself, actually. I learned I stress out over my family way too easily. I learned that I really have no idea what I'm doing as a parent. But I also learned that I'm just like everybody else- no one really knows what they're doing, they just rely on the best information they have, and everyone stresses out about their children.

My son thought he was "made broken" but on the contrary, he was made special. That requires me to listen to him more carefully because he communicates in his own special way. It calls me higher to encourage him more when he gets down over things he cannot control. And if it's even possible, you might say I love him more.

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.'"
(John 9:1-3)

I also learned that God has a purpose in all of this. I may not yet know what it is (I'm praying for the next Einstein, or as he now likes to say the next Tony Stark) but I know that this is all so that His glory may be revealed.

This also created in me a greater sensitivity to other children and other parents. I cannot judge because I don't know what they're going through. I have learned to empathize with families who are down in the dumps who struggle to understand that whatever they are going through is beyond their control, that they do not need to blame themselves.

What kind of struggles have you had as a parent; have you ever felt like you 'failed' in some way?

Are there times you struggle because you feel like you don't understand your son or daughter?

I love how Veggie Tales close out their shows: "Remember kids, God made you special, and he loves you very much!"

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