Jagged are the edges of a parent’s heart when they have a child who struggles.
The edges come from season after season of revolving patience and frustration; from simply wanting to help your child.
Sometimes we have to teach the same things over and over, because we need our kids to be self-sufficient in a difficult world. While this can be true in raising any child, it’s even more challenging when your child’s needs aren’t typical and they struggle with basic things.
You experience guilt and exhaustive intervention to uncover the tools they need. You want so badly for the world to see what you do: a beautiful human being who’s extraordinary in ways that aren’t measured. These kids struggle with basic things, but are commonly off the charts in qualities such as kindness, empathy, and creativity.
But the basic things are important for them to be able to show what they can do. So you have meeting after meeting and test after test. Sometimes you get lucky enough to interact with professionals who understand. Professionals who point out the positive qualities in your child that were discovered as part of the process, but will never show up on test results. Their kind hearts acknowledge how sweet, courteous, cooperative, and eager your child is to please in spite of his struggles. They reassure you that your child did their best and wants to do better.
You don’t want your child to be viewed as a hassle or a chore. You want their life to be easier, knowing they are okay despite their limitations. You want your child to feel accepted and loved just the way they are. And you want them to know they can handle life “on the outside,” away from you.
As parents, we do what we can to help them. We struggle with focus, hyperactivity, and follow-through on basic tasks. And it’s real. These are not things that one, two, or three punishments can correct through the lens of judgmental eyes; it’s far beyond that.
In my home, we make lists of simple tasks to check off every morning before we get ready for the day. Routine and written notes have proven to be a big help with focus. At first, we revisited the short lists over and over each morning, making sure we gave ourselves plenty of time to complete them. Some days were okay; others were long and drawn out with struggles, tears, and yelling.
But we stuck with it and learned how we best work together and on our own.
It has been a few years now, and my son has started writing his own notes and reminders along the way. Though it still breaks your heart a little, when you get to see the fruits of your seemingly endless labor, it’s a bittersweet moment for a mama’s tender heart.
He wants to do better. While closing a cabinet is by far the least of everything we’ve dealt with, he’s taking ownership and that’s gold.
All of the teaching and repeated exercises eventually take hold. When you start to see improvements and your child begins to help themselves, it’s moving to see evidence that the effort and heartache has all been worth it.
Sometimes your child comes to understand what all of their hard work was for. Sometimes they’re thankful for the ways we tried to help them. And sometimes you get to catch a glimmer of the future and the hope that they are going to be okay.
He saw that you never, ever gave up. And that you kept going through all of the heart-to-heart talks, failed trials, and frustrations.
Everything you tried has brought you here — all that didn’t work and the few things that did. Every tear you shed, every tear they shed, every prayer, and helpless feeling that took over as you watched your child in a group setting. Every note from every teacher that made your heart skip a beat. Every test and observation. Every future scenario you ever imagined your beautiful child struggling with suddenly dims and you see a bright glimmer of hope. They’re going to be okay and you helped them get there.
You championed all of the good things and they remember. You’ve cheered them on and they’ve started to stand on their own.
Though you aren’t done yet, there’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel. The small wins push you to keep going and see the journey the rest of the way through. As his mom, I will never, ever give up.
So yes, he struggles, but he wants to do better.