e, as parents, are only given a few brief years to form a lasting impression on our young children. However, within what feels as only the snap of a finger, a parent watches their child grow into a walking and talking unique adult. The baby years flash by rapidly while they transform into the toddler years, and those change ever so quickly into the school years. It seems as if in only such a short time, those adoring eyes turn elsewhere to find what they believe the truth to be.
Parents are left behind attempting to smile at those new decisions while we are internally left longing for the baby days again. The time where just the mere presence of a mother or father could make a child grin from ear to ear. Where kisses, nourishment, and a quick nap on your shoulder were enough for a child to faithfully adore the parent’s every move. Consequently, each milestone a parent experiences with that tiny child opens up the progression of a new soul leaving their mark unto the world
This alone can be a very daunting thought. In becoming a parent, we are readily given such great responsibility from the moment of each child’s conception. It can seem too real, unrealistically hard, and downright scary that just one loving unifying act creates a new child. It is also a wonderful, amazing, and fascinating growth opportunity. It takes commitment, love, responsibility, devotion, and faith in order for a parent freely to give of themselves for a tiny and helpless human.
It is amazing that, as parents, we are given such an amazing opportunity to evolve ourselves and our children to grow in love, strength, passion, and responsibility by raising them in a non-wavering deeply rooted loving discipline from the moment they are born until the next generation takes over that same obligation. Forever and always that love remains, and even through the trials of upbringing, which may seem to bring a person to their knees at times, that love never subsides. These early years, although full of love, may just the same be filled with tears, trials, exhaustion, desperation, anxiety, and some bouts of circumstantial depression, which may nevertheless leave us to wonder if we are doing anything right at all.
I must admit that even though our lives did not follow the typical storybook format, over time we were led to an internal sense of happily ever after. One that may have honestly only been able to be sensed in our outward appearance once our child’s small eyes were closed and his breathing finally decelerated into a resting state, it existed just the same.
Gracin, you see, was our rose among a stem full of thorns. He was not a wildflower who grew tall and carefree in a field or anywhere in which the wildflower seed touched down. He did not blow gracefully in the wind. He did not grow easily or quietly. He did not want to be sewn among countless other flowers. He was a rose, one of the most delicate of all flowers to maintain and give of their beauty.
He was abruptly placed into our lives in a bad situation with poor timing, but I believe he was placed exactly where he needed to be. I will admit wholeheartedly that we did not start out as the best parents for him. We had to grow into that role. Slowly we started to become what he needed us to be, and thankfully we were blessed with the opportunity to figure out how to help him grow into a fully blooming magnificent flower among a stem full of thorns. A rose that still may wilt when left to his own devices, though still a rose nonetheless.
One of the main things that I have learned about growing roses is that they are one difficult flower to maintain and keep in a full bloom of perfection. Between the weeds from the ground, the beetles eating the leaves, various other bugs eating the petals, the pruning of the branches, and the wind causing the delicate petals to fall to the ground, a person growing the roses can feel outright discouraged by any change in weather, temperature, or activity around their plants.
Amusingly, I once believed that you could pick out a plant from the store, bury the plant in the ground, and subsequently every single year many beautiful flowers would appear. Though as the years passed, showing a garden of basically only weeds and death, I learned that I was not very good at growing plants or flowers of any kind. It took me many years to accept and develop the proper technique to grow a beautiful garden, and, frankly, most years I still have to replant almost half of everything. Honestly, when it comes to gardening, I am lazy. I have better things to spend my time doing, and basically I just do not feel like putting in all the time to care for anything other than a few wildflower seeds.
Comparably, though, children are not something that you can just say that you do not have the time or the energy to mess with this year. You cannot throw up your hands in July and admit you’re sick of raising children or disciplining them for the year. Your child cannot wait until next year for you to pay attention to and help them grow into who they are meant to be. As parents, we must persevere through the difficult times for our own child’s welfare.
Consequently, I truly believe that God knew what he was doing when Gracin started growing inside me. I believe he laughed from his heavenly throne as he already knew all of my future struggles with Gracin and how I would change by the gift of his life. Nevertheless, he still chose to give me exactly him. He saw the ultimate progress in my son, the one that he will have made at his dying breath that I may never even witness. I just had to figure it out on my own, and I still need to figure it out, step by step. Oh how I wanted to know what my life had in store for me when I was a little girl, but I think it was good that I could not see it all because life is a discovery, and the best things are worth the most struggle.
Struggle I will admit we did, especially during those first five years and even though my first born son was not a cuddly little calm child who could fall asleep on my shoulder and sleep for hours, or who could sit and listen to me read him books for hours on end, or who could sit still long enough for a ten minute quiet walk in a stroller, or could sit still at the dinner table without interrupting our every sentence- to tell us multiplication equations and facts about random things that he felt was of the utmost of importance- we loved him just the same. Despite all of those things, he was, and is, an amazing child in his own right.
As is true for any child, but most especially a child with special needs, a parent must make the conscious decision to adapt and change for that child and not expect the opposite. In time, things shall be proven worthwhile, and the gift of improvement that you can witness in your own child will outweigh all of the selfish things you once thought you desired. Unfortunately, this is not an overnight awakening but a process of learning, cherishing, and accepting every individual young, old, or mentally affected, but one that, nevertheless, slowly promotes growth within each individual soul. At times, it will seem impossible and useless to even try, yet as the years unfold, parents can be led to witness vast improvements as we have.
Even though I cannot state that my child is fixed by the standards that most of the world defines as acceptable, that was never my intention or my goal. My goal was to wake up each and every morning and give my child the best version of myself that I could. Some days I will admit that I failed miserably, but at the same times that I failed him, I learned to pick myself up in the midst of my own anger, mistakes, and hopelessness and apologize to my son for my actions with the intention to always move forward and do better.
This may have been one of the hardest things to do for myself. Although by admitting that I was wrong and saying I was sorry, I taught him so much more than I ever intended to. My action became a humbling experience as I vocalized and gave my child the opportunity to understand that even an adult sometimes makes mistakes and needs to apologize when they act out of their own best interest. I want all of my children, not only Gracin, to understand that even though mommy may feel angry at their behavior, I loved and cared for them endlessly. Even though mommy may still lose control of her emotions sometimes, my love will never waver or subside.
Although it may not seem like I am cut out for this life, or that I should be caring for as many little children as I am, including a child with special needs, I believe I am in the exact place I am meant to be. I have traded in constantly obsessing with the mirror upon my wall for perfecting the interior mirror of my soul. Even though the soul may not be a physically seen object to the world around us, I believe that the mirror to my soul will do myself, as well as my family, a better endgame than any exterior mirror ever could. I have admitted that I am not perfect, but I am striving to become flawless day in and day out. Because I am not there yet, I ask forgiveness if a person has ever seen me falter in my mission.
I am certainly not writing these words to express to anyone that I have done everything right. I have acted out of anger myself and have later regretted my own emotions. I have wished that I could have taken back what I said. I have wished that the day would just end so we could start fresh again. I am even reluctant to admit that I have thought about getting in my car and never returning. Truly, I have thought some pretty horrible things, but the facts will always remain that I have never and will never act on those thoughts and do anything to jeopardize raising the children with which I have been gifted.
My husband and I have loved our eldest, as well as all of our other children, through and through it all, and we have and will always do our absolute best to help those children learn to grow and flourish. We will admit that, yes, we will each have our bad, horrible, and worst days, but we will stick with each other through all of the moments, good or bad.
We acknowledge that in order for Gracin to feel calm and controlled, we must put his anxieties and sensitivities at the forefront of our mind so that our family can function at its finest. This is why I believe I will always choose medication for my son. By caring for his mind’s internal balance as well as his own mental health, we will see far greater strides in his long-term wellbeing. We will, of course, always be open to new natural treatments and medical interventions if the research is conclusive, but we will never sacrifice the progress we have made just so he can be free of the medications. I believe that although I never wanted my son on “daily pills,” those prescribed medications are Gracin’s best bet in balancing his brain’s chemistry, which helps him to act in the ways he always intended.
No matter what choice we make for our own child, the most important choice is to choose love. Raising a child in love who truly knows how to care at their deepest capacity will leave the strongest impression on the individuals they come across in their life. I chose love over war, and although it took me some time to get to a point where I am happy to admit that this is my life, I believe that my husband and I are molding Gracin to embrace the call to love. I believe that by raising him with a big family surrounding him, with many other siblings, he will never feel alone and without true friends. That sibling bond, which can be stronger than any non-maternal friendship, is deeply rooted in their minds from the beginning of their existence.
Where there is love, trust, and hope there is always a way, and eventually with those attributes, all trials and sufferings will subside and peace will be restored to a family. Even though nothing in this life is guaranteed and life always changes, I just pray that in each family’s first few years of raising their own special needs child, parents will be armed with a few good ideas or inspirations from our story. May you love with all of your being the child that God created and knit inside you from conception. Even though you may not feel it now, you are the best parent for the job of raising that child! You may have to dig deep down into your being to find the strength to make a difference in the life of that tiny child, but I believe that by that struggle, you will be led on an amazing journey of enlightenment.
I can honestly state that at times I felt I was doing a lot of things to make our lives easier instead of his better. Even if I did not have his best intentions at heart every single time, I believe my expectations of how he could transform became the basis of the best part of our lives. One full of selflessness where we promoted growth within our son that led our thought process to evolve. Where Gracin’s medication became not something to keep him from hopping like a bunny constantly throughout the day but into something that could help him learn to focus for time periods when the medication was out of his system. Through knowing where we have come from and where we are now, I believe we have succeeded and will continue to in the forthcoming years.
I may have had days where I fought with my body to get out of bed in the morning because I already knew it was not going to be calm, easy, happy, or fun. I may have had months go by where I could not call any day a good day and felt as though we would never have another happy memory in our family. I believe that it was because of those moments that I was pushed to rise above what I felt I needed to survive.
Although life was full of nonstop battles that happened multiple times every single hour and ultimately beat me down as a caregiver, I really would never trade any of it. Even though at the peak of it all I, myself, had an increasingly difficult time being happy, even struggling to smile around my son, I came to realize that the anger I felt toward him was, in truth, really anger at myself. Deep hurt and frustrations created by my own selfishness because I could not do the things that I wanted to do anymore sometimes resulted in my feeling upset because all of my time was being spent on this tiny child. I slowly began to rise above the tears I believed were showing how much I was failing as a mother. It was during that self-expression during my private time after my children’s bedtime that I found who I was created to be.
As the conclusion of this half a decade closes on my first born son’s life, I am eternally grateful for who he is both on a physical level and the one at his core. On an earthly basis we have raised a child who tries so hard to be an individual who listens, cares, and loves everyone around him. Beyond his physical body, his diagnoses, his sensitivities, his anxieties, and all of the attributes that I do not have the privilege of changing, lies a soul. A soul which has been formed into a wonderfully pure entity proving everyday of a desire to become who he was created to be. A soul whom I am excited and feel blessed to witness live within the walls of my home.
My child may not be my easiest child by far, but I love and cherish him just the same, for he has taught me so much about life and love. He has given me a true passion for the first time in my life to fight for what is right for our immediate family’s long-term welfare. My child is not a curse. He is not payback for all of the things done wrong in my past. He is not a burden. He is a blessing in disguise placing our family one step closer to becoming the individuals we were ultimately created to be.
Gracin, from the very beginning of his tiny presence in our lives, may have been wide-eyed, loud, vocal, and overly involved. He may have hardly ever slept, never skipped a single beat, and seemed to feed off of the action. He may have not been the least bit shy and could have cared less who you were as long as you were holding him, talking to him, or interacting with him. It may not have mattered to him if I was coming or going, as he seemed to lack an attachment to his own mother, but it was because of this child that our lives transformed into the exact ones we possess at this current moment. Facts as they are, Gracin’s temperament has not really changed from day one. With our cornerstones of a strict schedule, devoutness to prayer, and perseverance, we have helped slowly mold him, and that constant, slow, and steady attempt has never been one to regret.
This child is my choice to love, and in the end, this child was my first saving grace. He may have been created from a bad decision, yet, regardless of the facts of how he has come into existence, he is a unique and wonderful addition to my family. I could never wish he were anything other than he is. I believe that everything you are given in this life is a chance to better yourself by pushing through the struggle to create a more beautiful life than you ever believed possible. Even though we may have experienced some broken wings during our five year journey, I am standing here today proud of who my son has become thus far. A mother’s love knows no diagnosis, only the love for their child. Because of that fact alone it is for the love of my son and his soul that we moved beyond his autism, ADHD, and IED into perfecting our family unit on an interior level.
Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism is available at Amazon.com.
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Copyright 2020 Janele Hoerner
About the Author
Janele Hoerner is the author of Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism: An Interior Analysis of the Impact a Special Needs Child Bestows upon the Family. She wishes to help all individuals to become selfless by the presence of special needs individuals in the community. She lives with her husband and their five children, two of which are on the Autism Spectrum, in central Pennsylvania. Visit Janele's blog at Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism.