She stomps into the house, tossing her bag across the floor with contempt. I lurch upward, nearly dropping my glass of water as she flops hard on the couch next to me.
“Another tough day, huh?” I ask, barely suppressing laughter over her outrageous theatrics.
“Need a snack?” I ask.
She grunts (I think it was supposed to be a “no”).
“Need an iPod?” I casually reply. And instantly she’s alive again.
Why’d I do that? Was I bribing her into being nice? Was I teaching her to use stuff to feel better?
Nope. I was moving her attention out of the sulking and in to a more empowered place. A place where she stood a chance at remaining my tall, beautiful, strong girl, instead of toppling in to a grunting pile of fear.
Because of her developmental delays, she’s really been struggling socially and it’s taking a toll on her confidence and courage to step out and try again and again with her peers.
We’ve poured time and love and prayer in to her at home.
We’ve worked with the teacher
We even talked to a couple of parents involved.
And now, it was time for the big guns. The shiny, pink iPod for which she’d saved money these past 6 months.
For a girl who’s first love language is gift-giving, this was the perfect token of hope. A sign the work she invests in life CAN accomplish something, and that no matter how things feel right now, life is still good. Beyond that, she saw that I was loving her with my gesture, which hit her post-foster-care attachment fears right between the eyes and left her feeling less alone in the struggle.
In short, I became the Wizard of Oz for a moment to infuse fresh courage into my moaning, fearful lion (a fitting metaphor since her first reaction to anything is to roar!). Instead of a cross of valor, I’d pin on her chest the longed-for pink mp3 player.
Which got me thinking about the tricks we use as parents of kids with special needs…
I think we’ve all got a little Wizard of Oz in us, don’t you?
- As parents, we feel we have to be brave and wise for our kids when inside we’re struggling as much as they are
- Nobody has it all together behind the curtain, but we still insist on feeling like crap around the “perfect” parents we know
- Balancing 1 and 2 leaves us feeling as isolated and grumpy as the movie’s Wizard did
- When we get isolated, we hurt others (not
completelyintentionally) to keep up the act. We begin to live the old adage: Hurt people hurt people.
- Courage – and thus our dreams, relationships, and our own healing – begins when we come out from behind the curtain.
My conclusion in all this rambling and pondering? Yes, the iPod saved the day. Yes, tricks help us manage this crazy life we have with our special kids. But while sometimes it’s good to be the Wizard to help our children in their lives, it’s never good to live like him in our own.
So use those tricks and tools as needed today, friend! But will you also join me in taking the risk to step out in courageous, authentic living, too? I promise you’ll find you’re not alone.