Friday, February 25, 2011

Confessions of a Special Needs Mom

It seems that God has answered our prayers in regards to what to do with our pending adoption. I'm writing that post now and will try to share soon.

But for now, I thought I'd share about what I've learned about myself during this process.

We spent many weeks compiling a list of "special needs" we would consider. And then when we found the child we felt was ours, we spent many hours researching and talking with doctors about what kind of long-term care she would need and how we could improve her quality of life.

And here's what I discovered. There was no "special need" on any listing that outdid my own "special needs." I felt that it would only be fair for any prospective adoptive child to be given the same information on this possible mother with full disclosure of all imperfections.

My file would read something like this:

She goes by the name "Kathie." She is considered an "older parent" (over the age of 40) although there are no grants available. Should you choose her, it is with the understanding that by the time you are in high school, others will think she is your grandmother.

She will need reading glasses to read you a bedtime story and may not be able to stand upright after sitting Indian style at a tea party.

She has many well-meaning behaviors that may cause extreme irritation. For example, she will take millions of photos of you but has no actual photography skills. You will have to put up with the auto-flashing and shutter-clicking, but you'll only have out-of-focus pics with your eyes closed to show for your patience.

Small toys not put away will mysteriously disappear. She can't stand "happy meal" items that didn't make anyone happy and you should note that these items are quickly donated or discarded.

She will sing you lullabies in spite of the fact that she is completely tone deaf.

She will want to dress you until you go to college. This may not be an issue in the early years, but by the time you are a teen, you will be wondering if you can escape through the air-conditioning vents of the dressing room during a shopping trip gone bad.

She will occasionally go freaky with the food she serves--going gluten-free, low-sugar, wholly whole wheat, and completely organic. You may try to trade up lunch items at school but no one will want a protein bar that tastes like cardboard in exchange for their Little Debbie snack cake. And then there are moments that she passes a Krispy Kreme establishment and the "hot donuts" sign is on. You should not call her a hypocrite if you'd like to partake of the white-flour, sugar-glazed manna that she is about to inhale.

She will often seem completely unfair. There will be movies and music and TV shows that everyone is allowed to see and hear, and you will be the ONLY one not watching/listening. If you ask why, she will simply respond with "Not Philippians 4:8 standards." ("Whatever things are good, pure, lovely, think on these things. . . .")

When you need clean socks you will be directed to a laundry basket solely dedicated to socks who have no partner. It is your job to play matchmaker and find two that are somewhat the same size and color. Good luck.

You will be fine if you need this mom to provide help in proofing papers, annotating poetry, and diagramming sentences, but you will up a creek without a scientific calculator if you need math help past the 6th grade. The Pythagorean Theorem makes her break out in hives, any attempt to find the area of a complex polygon will reduce her to her lowest common denominator, and she would rather poke her eyes out with a protractor than check your math homework.

She is a strong advocate for enjoying God's creation. She will pull over on the side of the road to behold a sunset, a rainbow, or wildflowers growing among asphalt. She will make everyone stop what they are doing to hear the birds singing outside and make you watch butterflies instead of TV. She will insist that you run outside at night to marvel at the stars and require that everyone pose for a picture with the first flower of springtime (which will no doubt capture you not smiling and cut off part of your head).

Although she cooks with love, she also cooks using whatever she has in the pantry and with the fewest number of ingredients possible. All her recipes are named something that ends in the word "surprise" (some surprises are better than others) and it's a safe bet that these culinary creations will never be featured on Food Network.

She absolutely can not handle whining or pouting. If there are words/sounds/looks that even hint at ungratefulness, you will be forced to select an item from her "consequence jar." On this little slip of paper, you will read your consequence (for example, wiping down baseboards and window blinds) for attempting to voice your concern. It's her sick way of teaching you a lesson while having you do a chore that she hates to do herself.

She suffers from Broken Record Syndrome. For example, you will hear phrases such as "good behavior equals privileges, bad behavior equals consequences" repeated till you think your ears are going to be permanently damaged.

She is a cryer. She will cry at your classroom doorway on the first day of school and at your ballet recital or soccer game. She will weep the first time you get your hair cut, swim without floaties, and ride a bike without training wheels. She will wail at birthday parties, graduations, and your wedding day. (Note: We are not talking delicate tears caught in monogrammed handkerchiefs. We are talking big ugly sobbing, sometimes snorting, pass-that-woman-a-box-of-tissues kinds of boo-hooing.) She is also a hugger and a kiss blower. You've been warned.

She might have attachment issues. Every single time another child is added to the family, she worries and wonders how she can possibly love the new one as much as the others. (But she, thus far, has had no trouble attaching to the ones God has given her.)

No matter how hard she tries, she will never understand what it feels like to be taken from your home country, to lose the only family and friends you have ever known, to have to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture, and acquire a taste for new food.

She will often feel overwhelmed in caring for your physical and emotional needs and wonder if she will ever be the mother you deserve. She won't understand that some days you need special care and other days you just want to be treated like everyone else.

Sometimes she gets tired, sometimes she feels stress, sometimes she loses her patience, sometimes she says things that she wishes she could take back.

She is a sinner, in need of a Savior, living in a fallen world, raising children who are sinners, in need of a Savior, living in a fallen world. And this means that she is flawed, that she will make mistakes, that she will need forgiveness.

And this is why she often feels so unworthy to be the mother of those precious children God has already entrusted her with and why she is so grateful for every child He brings to their family.

Hoping Someone Chooses My File,


G-Zell said...

Oh my goodness what a great post! I loved it!..... So true so true....we all have baggage.

Angie said...

Love the post! I think I'll borrow your phrase...not Phil. 4:8 standard. I like that! And you should have seen my little one scrubbing bathroom floors yesterday after a tantrum. :)

trustandobey said...

Wow! I really thought you were describing me until the cooking part.(I know for a fact that none of my recipes end in the word "surprise") Otherwise, your description pretty much fits. I have sometimes laughed to myself when I have gazed at my Olivia (now 8 from China) and wondered if she was as happy with the mom and dad that she was given as we are with the daughter we were given. Just goes to show how God's grace completely surrounds all facets of adoption (and life in general.)
Love this creative post!(Write a book!!!)

Renee said...

She sounds perfect. Whatever lucky family gets her they are sure to be blessed. Much love..

Love finds a way,

Christine said...

Kathy this is just beautifully written. Thank you-- it really made me smile this morning.

sierrasmom said...

This sure made me is beautifully written. Can't wait to read your other post!!!

Kat said...

I'm sharing this on my blog today. LOVE IT! Should be a requirement for every adoptive parent to write!

Susan A said...

Aw, that's a beautiful post, got me in tears :)

Kristin Ferguson said...

Even though it's taken me awhile to read this post, I'm glad I did! You really do need to start writing books! You are extremely creative and you speak right to the heart of all of us 'special needs' moms with all of your posts!


the johnson crew said...

sounds like a wonderful mother to me. :) keep on keeping on!

Kelley Pounds said...

Sounds like this blessed child will also get a mother with a great sense of humor! I laughed, I cried, I recognized myself in so many of these things. Best wishes to your family, and thanks for stopping by my blog.

sierrasmom said...

Miss you!!!

Rachelp said...

EXCELLENT POST...may we all be so humble! I am so glad I dropped in..

(Another gluten-free, broken-record, sinner...lover of Christ) :)

kj said...

Kathie, I came across your blog address I think in a comment you left on Linny's blog, A place called simplicity. I think we would totally be best friends, I've got a few years on you and have a 4.5 and 1.5 year old and we will be adding another little treasure from China next year. I'm not really sure how to make a link on my blog to your post, if I can't figure that out can I copy your letter (of course giving you credit!). Congratulations on your soon to be new addition!

Sara Beamish said...


PLEASE, could you tell me (or us) more about the "consequence jar" :)