(Not) Strong Enough
“You must be so strong to handle this.”
I nearly spewed coffee all over my well-meaning friend. Little did she know I was barely brushing my teeth and getting dressed each morning. Special-needs parenting is an uphill battle on a good day. But during a pandemic… Strong? I was just hoping to survive.
I learned early on that surviving special-needs parenting meant wearing lots of hats.
New diagnosis? I will find an effective therapy and do it myself if needed.
Food allergy? I will research interesting and kid-friendly substitutions.
Problems in public school? I will modify quality curricula and teach them at home.
I’m not super-mom. I just want my kids to have a chance in a world full of challenges. Surely, I could be what they needed if I tried hard enough, right?
But the pandemic piled even more hats on my head.
Distance-learning special educator.
Zoom appointments secretary.
Emotional outburst umpire.
Mental health manager.
Mostly I just tried to help my kids navigate the “new normal.” Change is a dirty word in special-needs circles. Predictability and routine are as vital a staple in our lives as our gluten-free mac-n-cheese. Deviating from the norm is simply asking for an epic melt-down. So, when literally the whole world went topsy-turvy, with expectations and expert information changing daily, our family’s little world turned on its head, too.
At the coffee shop that day, I was beginning to realize that my self-reliant strategy might not be enough.
I was doing everything I knew how to do, and my kids were still failing in school and falling more and more out of mental health. I suspected what my friend did not: I might not actually have what it takes to get my family through this pandemic in one piece.
And I was right. We ended up facing even more children challenges: more academic failures, three new diagnoses, a stay in a mental hospital. My best efforts were no match for meeting their special needs in a pandemic. I wasn’t strong enough after all. But—surprisingly—that was all right because it turns out that God is the Strong One, not me. And He is ok with that.
I learned God wasn’t disappointed in me. He never expected me to handle it on my own. In fact, He was proud of me, from the top of my worn-out head to the bottom of my weary feet. And He was glad to meet my needs, just like the Good Father He is.
I let God be the strong one and He showed up mighty again and again. He did not make me super-mom, but He did guide me step-by-step through the craziness of distance learning and virtual therapy. He helped me somehow get up and brush my teeth every day. He opened my eyes to see how my kids were growing through their trials.
And He helped me be honest about my struggles with others. I was overwhelmed by kindness from our small group and strangers alike. New friends and old friends brought meals, trimmed overgrown hedges, and sacrificially donated for costly therapy.
He also introduced me to resources I did not realize were there.
Homeschool co-ops to lighten my curricular load.
A neuropsychologist to gain insight into psychological and educational issues.
ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy to address inappropriate behaviors.
An out-of-state residential program for autism and psychological disorders.
His strength was made perfect in my weakness. I began to see my weakness as the gift it is, experiencing love in a way I never would have known otherwise. I still don’t have all the answers, and that is ok. I can be weak and let God be the strong one. As it turns out, He can handle it.
"Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT)
"…for the joy of the LORD is your strength!" (Nehemiah 8:10, NLT)
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." (Ephesians 6:10, NIV)
Find additional resources for special-needs caregivers and people who desire to support them at Parent Cue and Navigate Life Texas.