Moms (and probably Dads, too) are constantly analyzing in the rearview mirror of life what we did right and wrong. I’m not going to even out my list here, but I can tell you I have worked very hard at being an intentional and “always there” mom. Due to that very fact, I have had much opportunity on the road of life and our *Unexpected Journey of special needs life to make plenty of mistakes. For the most part, most of these mistakes are redeemable right at the time it happens as well as later on down that road!
Here are a few thoughts regarding my parenting that I did right (good) things, and some wrong (not so good) things! You’ll “get it” right away and might even see yourself in between the lines of what I’m writing. Check it out:
- The best of intentions isn’t always the best.
Because our first child (Joey; soon to be 40) was born with special needs, it was easy to shield him from absolutely everything to protect him (not saying that is a good thing!); but when our second child (first daughter, Kristina) wanted to go horseback riding at her 3-day outdoor education class, we wouldn’t sign the papers. Certainly, she wouldn’t be able to hold on, she’d fall off, and she’d die. She was 10. We came to find out when she was about 20, that because we didn’t sign those papers, she had to sit with the woman who took care of the barn (in the barn) while all the other kids rode their horses. What a FAIL! We are so thankful we could all laugh, but in retrospect it was so silly and so foolish on our/my part to hinder her from real life. She missed out on fun because of my fear. (She has forgiven me/us and was since found to be allergic to horses, so in the end, was I right?!??! HAHA!)
- No matter how much attention you give – it won’t be equal or enough!
Grandpa and Grandma Ferrini used to take Joey for a half or a full day so we could take our two daughters out for time (without Joey) to do things he couldn’t do or wouldn’t enjoy. As we were driving with the girls to an outing, Kathleen (child #3; daughter #2) said, “Dad and Mom: We think you love Joey more than us.” (How could that be? We have welcomed and embraced each of our children and were surprised God could continue to give us MORE AND MORE love as each child came our way! He gives it without withholding!) Of course, we responded, “Why would you think that?” Kathleen replied, “Because Joey gets to go with Grandpa and Grandma Ferrini and we have to go with you! We never get to go there alone.” Oh my! Even though we had the best of intentions, we FAILED. That was an easy fix; however. It still brings us laughter to recall this realization of our girls. That, and many other instances, opened up times of totally transparency and conversation! It then gave us opportunity to bring up other things to be sure we were giving each child what they needed and wanted in the “attention” arena!
- Don’t compare your children to each other.
This was an easy one for me. My mom modeled such a great example of letting all 4 of us kids “get” to do what we each liked, what we were good at doing, and she supported us all. Both Joe and I wanted our children to have fun and even do well at things they enjoyed; even if it wasn’t what we did as kids! Again, that was easy because all 3 were so very different and it made our lives so full and fun to be going in different directions with different skill sets of each child. We loved it all! (Sometimes I admit I miss those days…but now we have grandchildren, so we can be going in different and fun directions all over the place!)
- Respecting our typically developing children and their social lives.
It was always an intentional effort for us to make sure our girls weren’t expected to care for Joey or take him with them all the time as they got older. Because they were so adept at caring for him, it would have been easy to give them more responsibility of their brother, but my goal was to let them have their own lives and yet also training them to be helpers not just to us and to Joey but to all humankind! When we wanted to go out (as the girls were of babysitting age), I would leave them a message asking them if they would babysit. It sounded something like this, “This is Mrs. Ferrini. We would like to go out to a meeting on Thursday evening and I wonder if you would watch our Joey? We will pay you our usual amount and you may have one girlfriend over, too.” (Always clearing it with the parents of whoever they picked.) It was a win/win every time for all of us! And most importantly; Joey got the best care from a true professional!
- Teaching them life isn’t always fair.
There were so many teachable moments in this one. I tried to disperse just the right amount of “stop whining” with “I so understand” moments. These teachable moments still continue all these years later as both of our girls are now moms. My favorite verse teaching this principal is Psalm 138:8, “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.” You can take that one to the bank!
AND, by the way; as an older mom and now grandma, I’m still learning, too! Get into the journey of life and enjoy the ride!
Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at www.cindiferrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They speak nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways, authored Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:
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