I read through a few parent blogs the other day and came across a post entitled "When Your Child With a Disability Isn't a Superstar." I love this post by Ellen Stumbo for her honesty about how we as parents can sometimes make our children and their achievements all about us. It reminds me of the joke about wearing clean underwear if you get into an accident because it would reflect poorly on your mother. As parents of children with special needs, we learn some things that other parents might not ever grasp. It isn't about us!
In response to Ellen, I want to say, I am the parent of an over-achieving child, and I have had to learn the very same lesson, but in a different way.
In 1992 our son Kyle was born two months premature. After a month in the NICU, we took him home, and over the next few years of doctors and therapy came the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Over the first eighteen years would be countless therapy sessions, over a dozen surgeries, botox injections, and other procedures to ensure the best possible outcome for him physically.
Very early, it became clear that despite his many issues, his speech was not one of them. Because his life revolved around therapy and doctors instead of his peers, he developed a very adult speaking manner. This fascinated adults who met him and resulted in him interviewed for local news stories. He had a knack for getting in front of a camera. At seven, he was interviewed by Dr. James Dobson on the Focus on the Family nationally syndicated radio program. At thirteen, Kyle was featured in The Truth Project video series with Dr. Del Tackett. These resulted in other follow-up interviews and recordings.
Through all, Kyle maintained a 4.0+ grade average in high school, which lead to a scholarship to do his undergrad, then his masters, and now is in the fourth year of his Ph.D. at an ivy league school.
Maybe unlike Ellen, people want to say to my wife and me that we did a great job, but I want to tell you it has nothing to do with us. Our son has been his own driving force since he was very young, and most of the time, I have felt like I am holding on to the tail of a fast-running horse, barely able to keep hold.
Our son wanted to be involved in speech and debate, so we figured out how to get him there and stayed to make sure he could compete. When he asked to go to church camps, we volunteered to be leaders or made sure someone was watching out for him.
When he went off to college on the east coast, all we could do was worry and pray. I have woken scared that I had made a mistake, thinking I should have kept my son at home. I had thoughts of having to drive or fly across the country to save him from some catastrophe. When he has called and told us of trips to Turkey or Greece, I have felt my heart in my throat.
How many of us can make our children what we want them to be? Or can we protect them from everything? We have had to let go of what we want, or even the safety that makes us comfortable. What we have had to realize is that our son is becoming who God wants him to be. The best thing we have done is to get out of the way. We can only do our best to set him up for success and trust God for the rest.