When I was a child I loved listening to a gentle melody on our cassette player, sung sweetly by a lilting child’s voice with the lyrics “In His time, In His time, He makes all things beautiful in His time”. The words come from the book of Ecclesiastes and have whispered reassurance into my heart over the last few weeks. We live in such an instant society; our young people’s brains are literally wired differently to our own as they have been brought up with the ability to find information/connection at the click of a mouse, and thus have not developed the neural pathways associated with waiting. This expectation for instant fixes has seeped into most parts of our lives, including when it comes to expectations surrounding our children.
Couple this the pressure we often feel from glimpses into the lives of the “perfect” families we see portrayed on social media and it’s easy to feel discontent and inadequate. If we then throw into the mix a child with additional emotional, educational or physical needs, it can feel like we are most definitely failing as parents.
I’m impatient by nature and God has had to lovingly teach me patience over the years as I’ve learned to wait for things I long for. I wonder if being a mum to children who have trauma in their background is yet another lesson in patience? There seem to be so many issues and yet no direct answers. So many problems and yet however many psychology books I read or however many courses I go on, nothing changes dramatically. And yet things do change. Tiny things. A child who now allows me to brush her hair (mostly). Mornings when she is able to get dressed without any upsets and can even occasionally find her toothbrush and clean her teeth. Then there are days when this doesn’t happen and it can be discouraging. But, all the while, the tiny steps towards independence and healing are happening. It just takes time. So much time. It requires a change of perspective on my part. I want the quick fixes, I root through programmes and books to try to find the magical way forward. But what if there isn’t one? I pick up useful tips and sound ideas from all my seeking, but what if what is mostly needed is time and acceptance and love? What if some children are never going to fit into the box (hooray!) and I need to hold that, walk with them and stand by them when others criticise? What if, by trying to mould a broken or out of the box kid into an adult society sees as acceptable, we are in fact squeezing out the gift that child is?
So, maybe what I need isn’t necessarily more books and theories. Maybe it’s the courage to hold back and accept that we are walking a different journey. Maybe it’s a few people to walk this journey with me. To be unshockable and accepting. To drink tea with me and occasionally bring me chocolate. To listen and hear my heart cries. Maybe even to take the kids for a while to give me some time out. Maybe what I need is a shift in perspective; less guilt for not toeing the line and more acceptance and grace towards myself and the girls.
My mothering is far from perfect, but I wonder if I could enjoy this particular journey a little more if I worried less about the girls’ future and focused more on enjoying the present. If I can simply appreciate the moments of beauty I find each day in the midst of the mundane? Snowdrops peeking through the bare, muddy earth, a warm vanilla candle lighting up a dark morning, a soft new ball of wool for a crotchet project, a giggle and a smile, a new book to share and a blackbird building it’s nest.
I feel the responsibility of our girls’ future. And yet God who created them knows every tiny detail of their past and holds their future securely. Might my worrying steal the joy from the present? Yes, I need to be responsible and try to equip them as best I can to be independent and fulfilled adults, but that just might take a little longer than for most children, because they are, after all, beginning from way behind the start line. They have a multitude of challenges stemming from trauma and attachment issues. Deep healing takes time, layer upon layer. It happens best in relationship so this must take precedent over academic aspirations. Whatever else happens in our day, we always talk deeply. We laugh frequently. We sometimes cry together. Maybe we’re not bad parents, just impatient ones. So for now, I’ll try to make the most of each tiny tiptoe step in the right direction, and to enjoy the very many standing still moments. And for all the other mums out there entrusted with children with additional needs, slow down for a few minutes, have a hot drink and ponder on all the small wins which others might take for granted but you know are gold medal worthy!