It was one of those “ah-ha” moments. Three years ago, if someone told me my son would one day drive an 18-hour trip to South Georgia, I would have laughed. Or cried. Or told you very politely to jump in a lake. (Preferably, a very deep one.) Driving lessons were not going well.
But just celebrating his 20th birthday, my son (who exhibits typical traits of ASD like anxiety and hyper-focus) is driving the last leg of a two-day journey to his grandparent’s home, even as I type these words.
“The soil looks like Mars,” He observes from the drivers seat as we pass freshly bulldozed mounds of deep red earth, gashed like a wound across a field of coarse Burmuda grass. Tall, skinny pines along the back roads of Coffee County flicker in blinking succession past my window while he tells his father about 8-bit video game music that calms him when behind the wheel. I’m just so glad he’s actually driving I don’t even care I’ve been listening to computer bleeps and blips for the past 80 miles.
“If you’re clear, you want to get in the left lane,” His father interrupts, coaching him on the approach to the interstate onramp. John dutifully complies, slides into his lane, and begins to cruise at 65 mph.
But only a nanosecond after my silent applause for this moment of victory, comes my inner killjoy. “Yes, he can drive. But will he ever be capable of living on his own? Will he ever get a job? Will he ever brush his teeth without bribery? Will he ever–?”
My heart sinks and I turn my gaze back to the Bible in my lap and realize I’ve been mindlessly re-reading the story where Jesus visited his hometown. Clearly, I could use a little of that hyper-focus. “Then they scoffed, ‘He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.’ They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him,” (Mark 6:3, NLT)
Familiarity breeds contempt.
Jesus’ own neighbors, people he’d grown up with, who should have cheered louder than any one, refused to see his abilities and celebrate them. Instead, they wanted more. More miracles. More signs. More wonders. But the truth is, there could never be enough proof to satisfy them because they could not appreciate what was already in front of them.
Sometimes, I don’t fully appreciate what I see, either.
I look back up to my son, sitting erect, both hands steady at the wheel, and then up to the patch of blue sky slowly drifting past my view. I am struck with the similarity between myself and those who scoffed. I am suddenly so sorry and ashamed. I ask God to forgive me. To forgive my demand for more, more, more and for my refusal to stay in the moment long enough to celebrate and give Him thanks for what He has accomplished in John. Because when I do think about it, I am grateful.
I think of my friend who would give more than a right arm to hear her son say “I love you,” as he did as a toddler before autism silenced his voice. I think of those who, like me, miscarried over and over, but never carried a pregnancy to term. Or my other friend whose son with Asperger’s is living at college, but who admits how she envies my son for his ability to drive! Ridiculous. Unprofitable. Wrong. Why can’t I keep my eyes on what God is doing in my son, celebrate the victories, and leave the rest to His plan, His timing and His ways? Comparison is the enemy of joy.
Like the repentant woman caught in adultery, I sense God extend a calloused, carpenter’s hand and lift me up from the dust of my discontent. He hears my heart’s repentant cry and affirms that He does not condemn me, with the added reminder as he dusts me off, to get up and try again. Another opportunity to “Go, and sin no more.”
I smile in response to God’s mercy just in time to hear John sing a line of Willy Nelson’s “On the road again…” followed by a self-congratulatory chuckle at his own joke. Nary a truer word was spoken.
Question: What milestone, character trait, recent event or aspect of your child’s life is worth taking the time to pause, savor and celebrate?
–Kelli Ra Anderson, author of devotional, blog and podcast Divine Duct Tape and soon to be released Life on the Spectrum
Latest posts by Kelli Ra Anderson (see all)
- Calming our Anxiety in Special Needs Parenting - August 24, 2015
- Victory in the Seeming Loss of Special Needs Advocacy - June 22, 2015
- Retreating in God’s Hands: respite for the special needs parent - May 25, 2015
Sissy Alderson says
Rejoicing with you!!!!! My granddaughter, age 3, cerebral palsy has just mastered army crawling, pointing to what she wants, and making specific vowel sounds before she can get the item or person she is pointing to!!! We are doing the happy dance at our home!!! What others take for granted, are what many pray for!! Our God is Mighty, and is FAITHFUL!! Buckle up and enjoy the ride!!!
I couldn’t say it better! I’m so happy for you and the progress your granddaughter is making! Many more blessings to you, Kelli
Sissy Alderson says
Denie Sidney says
My daughter made it through her first 4 months of school with NO hospital stays. That is a MIRACLE!
Laurie Wallin says
I do this all the time! Maybe it’s because we work for years on a skill with our kids that could take six months and when they get it we’re like, “awesome! Now let’s get moving on this other one!” I get so caught up in the doing and what’s able to be done that being and celebrating now are skipped over. Today I will celebrate that my daughter took a shower without a massive fight and UN level negotiating. 🙂
And what milestone in the life of such a parent is worth taking the time to pause, savor, and celebrate? Comparison lurks there, too, and I suppose is often none too gentle. Other parents seem to have it so much more together, or at least seem more effective in parenting their special needs children. Can we see in ourselves progress, giftedness, ways in which God has fitted us perfectly for our child? Take that look and pray for eyes to see. Listen to others who see those things in us.
Kelli Ra Anderson says
Jamie, thank you so much of your insights! Our lives are on a spectrum of growth, aren’t they? And celebrating even the baby steps toward a ultimate goal is worthy of a smile and thanks, I think (but I don’t often remember to celebrate those, either, unless I make myself pause long enough). Comparison to other parents is especially deadly. Each of our children, even if they have the same disability, are so unique, as are their strengths and weaknesses. Those who seem to have it all together, too, are often living an illusion and struggle in ways outside eyes are unable to see. God help us to see His hand at work each day in OUR lives and be thankful; God help us to give thanks for the ways He is working even when we cannot see, as well. Because He is very much at work behind the scenes, isn’t He! –Blessings to you, Jamie! –Kelli
Kelli Ra Anderson says
I will celebrate with you, Laurie, ’cause that’s considered a HUGE victory in my house! Love your heart! :0) –Blessings to you, Kelli