Thank-you, Kathy Hill, for tweaking my heart… For 10 years of Little Miss Sweetness’s life, the primary focus of my caregiving seemed to be providing safetyand nurture, and meeting her basic needs out of a wealth of mother-love. Intermingled in there, was the role of providing opportunities for her to develop interests and friendships, but her attention span was challengingly short for her to engage for long. She continues to be passionate about those who regularly people her world, and a variety of canine and other four-legged friends; squealing with delight to encounter any of them, whether at church or school or in the grocery store; but for the most part, anything else fails to hold her attention for long. As Little Miss Sweetness has becme more adept at handling her own mobility safely, and navigating social venues, it has become increasingly important to access opportunities for her to grow in her understanding of, and enjoyment of the world, to facilitate interconnections between her and the rest of the planet. It has also increased our ‘conspicuous quotient’ considerably; and while I enjoy being the center of attention, I like to reserve that for when we are ‘looking smart’, not when we are piecing together social appropriateness. We used to fly under the radar as just a mom and a large baby…no more. So while Little Miss Sweetness wrestles excitedly with whomever new she gets to meet, ‘mom’ wrestles’ with how we look. To a certain extent, I’ve slowly stopped wanting every possible opportunity for growth for my daughter, and started hoping we can just get through the church foyer without creating a scene. A scene for whom??? I used to think the whole world was a stage for lucky children…
I’m not sure when my attitude changed. (It was probably always there to a certain extent; that wanting my parenting to be validated by the behavior of my children. We have long since let that go by the wayside – and I have a much greater sense of appreciation for parents who wrestle with exactly where to draw the boundaries. When I see them doing so with patience, they get my vote. ) I find it challenging to switch roles, even in my adult mentoring relationships, from the needed, to the needy and back again. Juggling expectations then letting go at just the right moment to allow someone to fly is tricky in the best of weather. This is accentuated in my relationship with my teenage daughter, who while beautiful in so manydetails of appearance and character, also needs me to provide many details of personal care. And she is beautiful…sensitive to the expressed feelings of others, aware of their need to be drawn in. She is delighted by humor and babies and living things. She is resilient to a fault. She’s happy. And she is appreciative. All in all, not bad for a teenager! But some small part of me, that while I cannot forget she is mine, all mine in the daily demand, has forgotten that she is mine , all mine, in the delight, the privilege to embrace in a mother-daughter dance. My husband, God bless his soul, keeps a loving view of who she is, and when I confessed my sorrow at this angst, he was quick to affirm the efforts I’ve made to create opportunities. Just recently, we took advantage of a non-school day to go out for breakfast – it’s what I would have done with my other girls, and we had a blast confusing the waitress with our fumbled ordering. My fumble, her gain! There is hope. But I am grateful for Kathy, who said in not so many words, “God does not see my disabled child any differently than He sees me.’ If that’s true, then I guess I don’t get to do so either. And if I am pressing along because this is what I have to do, rather than because this is what I am privileged to do, then I have missed a beat somewhere. I have missed seeing Jesus in Little Miss Sweetness, in someone’s invalid grandmother, or in a neighbor’s mother with mental illness. Our special charges are not measured by capabilty or fluency or even sit-still-ability, but just as one created by, and belonging to God, as fully as you or me.
I am reminded of a time in marriage, when I lamented the need to walk through one of my husband’s struggles alongside him, compalining all the while, “Why should I have to do this?” (I will probably have to do a full confessional on selfishness some other day…right after the one on arrogance.) In some moment of grace, I was able to catch a glimmer of truth; that it is not my chore, nor obligation, but rather my privilege, to serve one so loved by God. It’s part of why I share this post – not because I’ve figured this serving thing out – but because I’ve felt the struggle of it, in many of the relationships in which we are called to serve one another. It is sometimes easy to bend one’s head to the task, even obediently; but forget to still one’s heart to the privilege. Godspeed.