Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Character Training...with Special Needs Children

I recently got together with all  most (Some new babies kept some of the mommies at home!) of my homeschooling mommy friends.  What a wonderful group of Godly ladies I have the privilege of knowing and learning from.  We share our hearts at these get togethers along with some fabulous Pinterest inspired goodies!  I love hearing the moms share where they are along the homeschooling road and how long each one has been on their journey of educating their children.  We do, once in a while, talk about the academic side of educating our little and in my case, not so little, ones.  Mostly we try to encourage each other in the area of becoming more Christ like women and mothers.  Mostly we try to uncover what it means to raise young ones with integrity and faith.  These women and our discussions are my lifeline!  I praise God each time I remember them.  They are my new colleagues!  I no longer eat in a staff lunch room and see my coworkers throughout the day, but that's what these women are.  They are my support staff!

As I reflect on my own childhood, I realize that everything (or at least almost everything) we talk about at our Mom's Only nights is in complete contrast to how I was brought up.  I feel like I am a new generation of homeschool mom that never existed before now.  My stereotype of homeschool moms when I was young ~ and I hate to admit it, but my impression of homeschool moms in the not so distant past~ was that of women who always wore denim dresses, had long straight hair and had no TV's in their houses.  I stereotyped their families as very holy and out of touch with the "real world."  I assumed that these families were perfect and probably in some way I would have rather grown up "weird" with them than in my own alcoholism and verbally abusive family.  When we talk about character training at our get togethers I always have to stop and wonder if I can be the type of mom for whom parenting seems to come so naturally.  

Now that I am a homeschool mom I am having a hard time finding my place as a Godly raiser of Character infused youngins.  How can I raise the kids I dream of having when I have very little memories to work from?  Very few memories that I want to copy anyway. I know what I don't want in a family and I think I even know what I want, but how do I get there?  My best source of strength is daily...sometimes hourly...and some days, like yesterday and today, minute by minute prayer!    I am not the mom I want to be yet, but I am sure I am at least moving closer to who she is than away from that dream.  I am praying that each generation of family that I have influence over I can pray and move us toward becoming more Godly rather than move us away.  With God's help we will keep striving toward having his character.  We will not get there overnight but we are headed in the right direction.

If you have read my blog many times then you know that my past is not the only factor that makes parenting a less than easy road for me.  My present is not only marred by past examples in my life but also complicated by having a child with emotional and social challenges as well.  Some days I really do wonder why God gave me Caleb.  I love him to death, but surely (at least from this earthly perspective) someone more qualified to raise him and raise him to be a Godly man of integrity.  I really wish I knew how other parents of emotionally challenged kiddos feel about their success as a parent.  I try to be a Godly example.  I try to teach right from wrong.  I try to model appropriate behavior and still I am the parent at youth tonight who had to leave one of her kids at home because he had a fit (a very ungodly display of words and actions) because we had to leave early tonight.  Wouldn't a child who has been trained with good character be able to simply obey.  Simply be able to "get over it" when we have to leave an hour earlier than usual to deliver a pie to his grandpa for his birthday and get the two younger kids to quizzing practice?  No, not this kid.  Is he simply disobedient or does his Aspergers really keep him being able to process that it is ok to eat a bit earlier and leave a bit earlier without falling apart?  Does he lack the character and ability to obey I want him to have?  Or is there really something in his brain that keeps him from developing character and integrity like other kids his age?  He is 14 after all.  Shouldn't he be able to cope with a schedule change without calling me names and hiding in the barn?  Is it my fault?  What have I done to prevent him from simply obeying?

I think I am not the only parent of a child with any kind of limited mental capacities or mood problems who has second guessed her abilities to raise her child to obey.  I know he has real limitations that he CAN'T control even if he wanted to.  But I still beat myself up over it nearly every day.  I still wonder what I could do differently.  After all, I try and pray so hard!

In moments of peace and contentment I know that I AM doing all I can for Caleb.  I also know that there is nothing anyone can do to completely overcome autism.  When a routine changes no amount of perfect parenting and character training will eliminate his brain's structure and chemicals. I know that.  But whenever I hear about ideal character training, the voice in my head jumps all over me to be a better parent.  I just feel so alone among a group of women who are achieving results in their children's behavior and I am not.  Well I am in two of my kids, but its that one moment of screaming and yelling by the other kid  when Satan reminds me that I am a failure.

 I'm still waiting on someone to write a book, or at least a song that I can sing over and over, about how to balance character training with autism.  How do I balance having expectations of respect and obedience in my kids with a brain that "just doesn't get it?"  Until someone writes that book or composes that song, all I have is my trust in the God who Gave me Caleb.  If he gave this child to me then he must trust that I am the right parent to raise him despite the fact that I seem to fail daily.  God must trust me.  God also knew that I have few memories to build off of and model my parenting on and he still trusts me to raise Caleb.

So until the day when I am perfect, I will just trust.  Until the day when Caleb "gets it" I will trust.  I will not let the enemy lie to me and call me a failure.  I will not lose hope that I am the woman God created me to be and Caleb is the young man that he was created to be.   I will keep trying to get him to use appropriate words and have appropriate actions despite routine changes etc.  I will keep modeling for him what Godly character looks like.  I will simply do my best.  God willing we will both grow in our character.  God willing I will not give up!

Parents of special needs kids, (especially ones with emotional and mood disabilities) let me know your thoughts?  How do you learn to live with yourselves when your child just doesn't seem to grasp that he or she needs to obey and have good character ALL the time...not just when their brains feel like it?  How do you cope with failure as a parent?  Lets encourage one another to not give up!