By Lisa Hamel
He weighed 8lbs 2 oz and was 21 1/2 inches long. A bouncing baby boy who had all 10 fingers and 10 toes. Of course I expected nothing less. I expected to have a perfectly healthy baby who would enhance my life. He didn’t sleep well and motherhood certainly overwhelmed me in those early months, but as the years went by we realized there was something more going on. By the time he was four, I walked into a therapy office with tears streaming down my face. I met the woman in charge and said the words I thought I’d never say, “Something is wrong with my son.”
My son is Neuro-A-typical. Also known as Asperger’s Syndrome or Level-one Autism. The normal parenting books didn’t work on him. He didn’t adhere to a formula. Because autism looks SO different on every child, it took us a while to understand what was going on.
You can read more about my own personal journey here.
Can I be brutally honest? For years, I played victim. In every way that my child overwhelmed my world, I blamed him. I can’t tell you how many times I was more concerned with getting him to be quiet than I was about WHY he was screaming. Eventually the Holy Spirit got my attention and I was convicted that I was just reacting instead of addressing what was going on underneath. If you are a mom who is dealing with a particularly difficult child, there may be more going on inside. It may be Autism or Attention Deficit Syndrome or even giftedness. And by God’s grace you are your child’s champion as they learn to navigate this world.
So if you or a friend are starting to suspect a child may have extra challenges, here is some advice from one Mama Warrior to another.
1. You are their first line of care in this world. Diagnosis is not a life sentence. Although there aren’t cures for many of these challenges, there are interventions that can make a huge difference in your life. Diagnosis should bring freedom, validation and resources…not shame. I know my God is bigger than a diagnosis, but the therapies that we have done have changed our family environment in huge ways!
2. You are the resident expert on your child. You know your child best. Learn as much as you can about their challenges and then use that wisdom when their behavior is difficult.
3. You are their spiritual compass as they grow. Remind your child that their challenge is something that God will use to bring himself glory. We may not always have our act together, but as we stumble forward with autism, multiple educators and therapists have commented that there is something unique about our family. 2 Corinthians 12: 9 says that “his power is made perfect in weakness.” There is a beautiful maturity these kids can gain early in life by understanding that when they are weak, God is strong.
4. You are their advocate warrior. You will need to be a tenacious advocate for them. Be it at school or Boy Scouts or church, as their Mama Warrior, you will need to make sure that those working with your child understand their needs and challenges.
5. You are their teaching warrior. I never taught my son to read. Or do math. He just figured it out and still does to this day. It just makes sense to him. However, every social cue or seemingly “common sense” life skill is not an assured thing. There may be areas where you have to go the extra mile in teaching your child. As Mama Warriors, we can’t assume that they’re learning everything they need at school or church.
6. You must be a balanced Warrior. This is the big one!!! As Mom’s with our own brokenness, we have to watch for these two tendencies. We can tend to be dismissive and laugh off our kids’ challenges (often never addressing them.) We get angry or annoyed and then build a wall between their drama and our life—rolling our eyes or just thinking they’ll grow out of it eventually. Or we become overly enmeshed emotionally with our child—as if we are rolling around in the mud of their childhood with them. This might mean fearing every potential, future rejection or missed life experience. Fearing every outburst and so thus controlling every environment so that the meltdown is avoided. This can also be called co-dependancy. This is where I struggle. Any other control freaks out there?
I have learned over the years that God wants us to build gates, not walls. Sometimes we need to enter in with our child. Go through the gate into their emotional world and get a better picture of things. But it is THEIR world. Not ours. We must eventually walk back into our own world and close the gate behind us.
Friends we can only be an effective warrior if we have taken care of ourselves first. How can we teach a child to calm and quiet if we don’t know how ourselves? We only have the Holy Spirit’s power to change ourselves! No one else! Though they have challenges, they are not a victim of some cosmic fate and neither are you. Trust that God will use this to bring himself glory and to free you in ways you can’t see right now.
You are not battling alone! Finding a support group in your area can be such a benefit as you walk this road. Along with that, we are here for you! If you suspect that something is not quite typical with your child and you need a listening ear, please use the connect link on our site. Ten years ago I couldn’t find a safe place online for support. This is what Mom Mentor is about. You are not alone Mama Warrior, we will fight with you.
Lisa is currently "SAHM-ing." In the past she has been a pastoral counselor, a singer, a music director, and an accountant! She lives in a multi generational home in the Pacific Northwest with her two boys, her amazing husband, and her mother. She is a coffee snob and a health nut who loves to dance like no one is watching. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!