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sign of the times

Friday, September 26, 2008

Everything that has happened this week with Maddie and signing has brought back all of my insecurities about parenting a special needs child.
I feel like I've failed my little girl.
You would have thought 'sign language' would have been a no-brainer with a child who CAN. NOT. HEAR!
But um...nope.
Not for me.
What was I thinking?
I mean, REALLY.
I did a little bit of sign with her to get us through the first few months...you know, things like - 'eat', 'drink', 'potty', 'hungry', 'night-night'...but nothing too serious. Even after my sister-in-law and I talked about it last weekend, I still didn't think it was necessary. Maddie was doing great. She could understand us. What more did we need?
Yea. That's how self-centered I had become.
It hadn't occurred to me how frustrated Maddie had to be since we rarely understood what SHE needed.
But she never complained.
She never got cranky over it.
She just dealt with it, just like she had over her entire lifetime. Quietly moving on - most likely chalking up the experience to yet another disappointment in her young life.
It should surprise me at how selfish I was...but it doesn't.
Before we traveled to Ukraine last winter I had no desire to bring home a child with special needs.
None.
Sure we put in the home study we were open to certain conditions, but I never really thought we would bring home anything other than a healthy child. After all, the first three children had medicals a mile long in their file, but each one of them is physically healthy.
No. I had no intentions of being a special needs parent.
These children needed a special parent.
Something I am not.
Those who truly know me, know I have absolutely NO patience.
None.
At. All.
Zip.
I have friends who make fun of how Type A I am. Everything has to be just so...and if it's not just so my family hears about it. I had no business taking on a child who would need extra help in any way. It would mess up my sense of order. And when my order is messed up I tend to lose my patience...and yell!
And then there's the whole, 'dealing with the medical community' thing.
Would I have the patience to deal with all of the doctors?
Would I know who to turn to for information?
Would I have the energy to drag the child from one doctor's appointment to the next?
And you know how I feel about needles?!
Nope. I was convinced God had not given me the personality needed to parent a child who needed extra help.
It took all I had in me not to lose my mind with my older three.
I needed another healthy child.
So when we were presented with Maddie's information, I was surprised at how unconcerned I was about her medical condition. We thought we knew from my brother and sister-in-law's experience 'all about this condition.' We were sure we knew what to expect.
Ignorance is bliss.
We truly weren't prepared.
But I wouldn't trade Maddie for anything.
Nope.
God knew what he was doing when he brought this little girl into our family.
Shocker, huh?!
And I think I've started to figure out His plan.
I think He's working on changing ME.
He's molding me...using this experience to shape me.
Getting rid of some of the arrogance...and showing grace by giving me more patience than I thought possible.
I'm still not convinced I have what it takes to parent a special needs child.
Let me assure you... I have yelled. I have lost my patience.
I barely have it in me to drag Maddie from doctor to doctor.
I get tired of the constant chatter that I can't understand.
Maddie stretches me to my limits.
It takes a lot of energy to keep up with her...and to deal with her idiosyncrasies.
I find myself sighing a lot.
But I am also finding a lot of joy.
More than I ever dreamed possible.
So, when I fail my little girl, like I did this week, I try to remind myself...
I'm still a work in progress.
I'm still stretching.

sunflower seeds - sign of the times

13 salty messages:

Bethany September 26, 2008 at 9:52 PM  

Tami,

I fail my boys all the time. I, too, am not exactly a patient person. There's only two of them to push my buttons, but I find myself yelling a lot. I'm just learning to navigate medical care and doctors, too, so I know what you're talking about. It's tough to decipher what they mean and, more importantly, what it means for you and your family. I am so there with you on this one. I'm doing a lot of stretching these days, too.

-Bethany

Rachael September 26, 2008 at 9:59 PM  

It's nice to hear this side of the story too! Your honesty and humble sincerity are to be respected. And, hey, at least you figured it out, eventually, right? (As I'm sure there will be many more things to figure out as you go along!)

Diana September 26, 2008 at 11:33 PM  

I love these kinds of posts! Where have you been hiding them all this time? I think failing our kids is a part of parenting - and I completely agree...I know without question God sent my special needs kids to me to make ME a better person. At least its good to know we're not alone and are all in this together.

Tina in CT September 26, 2008 at 11:48 PM  

You're too hard on yourself.

Why didn't any of the doctors suggest signing? They are the medical experts and if they didn't promote it, don't knock your head against the wall.

You're doing a good job and Maddie seems to be a happy little girl from your posts. No one ever said being a parent is easy.

lookingforgeorge September 27, 2008 at 7:39 AM  

I'm sooo glad I'm not the only one who gets frustrated and yells. I'm also glad I'm not the only one who gets tired of the constant chattering (just because I can understand it doesn't mean it's less annoying). But most of all? I don't think you failed Maddie. If she went her whole childhood without you figuring out she needs to learn to sign, then maybe you would have failed her, but you did figure it out, she is still very young, you didn't fail her. You are giving her what she needs now. That is not failure.

Kathy and Matt September 27, 2008 at 10:02 AM  

I love it when I'm struggling thru a situation (ok, I don't mean I love the struggle) and suddenly the light bulb clicks on in my head. In an instant, I recognize how God is using the experience to change me....to soften my rough edges and my flaws...to help me grow and to draw me closer to him.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Kristen September 27, 2008 at 12:35 PM  

Tami,
Ditto to everything the others have said, and thank you again for sharing. You are not alone in impatience, yelling, failures, etc. as a parent.

But we also all have to remember something about parenting--special needs or not. WE DON'T have the ability within ourselves alone to do it well--none of us, ever--BUT GOD DOES. And God will work though and in us to carefully shape those little lives--and ours--if we'll open ourselves to the Spirit.

You are doing just that--beautifully.

Tina in CT September 27, 2008 at 10:54 PM  

I left you a comment on my daughter's blog about her night last night driving around Moscow.

K.A. September 28, 2008 at 2:12 AM  

i'm the daughter of someone who says she "fails" us all the time.

and although i'm not labeled "special needs," i've been through more medically than i can list here, am now facing 2 brain surgeries at 22 that have appointments my parents STILL have to be at, i've attempted suicide and dealt with depression because i was kidnapped.

yeah, my mom says she has failed me too many times to count. "why haven't i pushed the doctors?" "why didn't i get help to you when you were kidnapped before it took a month to get you back to the country & at home with me?" "i'm so sorry i ruined your childhood," the list could go on.

and you know what?

every single time, i say, "you haven't failed me."

and guess what?

i mean it.

with everything in me, i mean it.

seeing ways you've "failed" maddie allows you to see ways to improve - and that's a good thing, it's healthy, it's what brings about positive change for all involved. but i'd be willing to bet that maddie, even if frustrated with the obstacles in the way, is grateful to have you. loves you even if sometimes things aren't perfect. i know it's different with adopted kids as far as attachment & learning basic family lessons, but some things are the same no matter what. and i'm willing to bet that when maddie is grown, she will be able to look you in the eye and tell you that she knows how much you love her & how hard you tried to make her life as perfect as you could make it - regardless of how you see it or how it measures up to other peoples' childhoods.

i can tell through your writing that you love her. and sometimes love isn't enough... but in others, it is. you don't have to be an expert... be willing to learn, willing to improve your shortcomings, but allow yourself to see the triumphs as well.

- michelle

Courtney September 29, 2008 at 7:28 AM  

You haven't failed her, Tami. Believe me, I've worked with a lot of hearing impaired children. Coming home from an adoption is such a transition, and it takes a little while to figure how best to meet EVERYONE's needs. We're still struglling with what to do with Dima's speech, and I've started signing with him to hopefully open up another communication avenue for him. It's not failing your child if it just takes you some time. If you had seen how she took to sign, and then turned away and refused to allow it...
You are still seeking the best for your daughter, while in the middle of recovering from an adoption (financially and emotionally), taking care of 3 other kids, job changes, moving (to another state!), and caring for your husband and marriage. Don't beat yourself up over this. Start where you are, and do the best you can from here. Every day, every morning. :)

Courtney September 29, 2008 at 7:31 AM  

BTW, I think it's hysterical that God would place a hearing impaired child with someone who yells when they lose they temper. Just turn around and yell as much as you want (that probably doesn't work with her aid on). LOL (I'm totally teasing here, btw. :))

DoveFamily September 29, 2008 at 12:21 PM  

It's amazing how God uses us, stretches us, challenges us, and "nudges" us to where we're supposed to be. :)

You are not failing by any means. You provide for your daughter, encourage her, comfort her - and most important, you love her. I seriously doubt that Maddie thinks you've failed her. I bet she is totally psyched that you have given her a new outlet to express herself!

None of us is perfect. Just set your sights on Him and seek His will. Each child is different, and you have to find the right formula to unlock that child's potential. I think you might have just discovered another piece of Maddie's formula!

adoptedthree September 30, 2008 at 8:01 AM  

Hey Tami!
We all think we cannot do it, but God knows those of us that can.

You should see me in the morning racing to get the kids to the sitter’s before their bus arrives! CHAOS!

You are a parent. You are fine. There is no rule book that is in place showing how to be a parent of a special needs child. You just learn as you go and be amazed how much they can teach us as adults!

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