How being the mom of a special needs child humbled me

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I became a mom when I was 23 years old. In today’s society – at least the one I’m part of, in The Netherlands – that is quite young. Looking back, I must admit that I was young, and naïve – and not very prepared either.

Yes, I had graduated from college, my husband and I were married, he ran a business and we owned a house. I knew how to cook potatoes (which is a typical dinner in the Netherlands 😉) and how to clean the bathroom (although honestly, housekeeping certainly isn’t my favorite thing to do), and since money was tight at times, it was an advantage that I was frugal by nature.

However, I didn’t know much about motherhood – well, except for the great example my mom was (and she still is!). I truly feel blessed by being raised by godly parents who showed me through their actions how great God is, and what a loving Father He is.

The struggles of motherhood

But to be honest, I hadn’t thought much about what kind of mom I wanted to be. When I had my oldest, I guess I just did instinctively what I thought was best, and of course I tried very hard to follow my mom’s example. This turned out to be not so easy, though.

For a large part because, well, I have a human nature with all kinds of inclinations towards sin. I never realized how incredibly impatient I am by nature, until I had children! How easy it is to become frustrated and annoyed when things don’t go my way – and as you know, with children in the house, very few things – to nearly none at all – are going our way.

Developmental disorder

But there was also another thing that complicated and enriched my parenting journey at the same time: we gradually found out that our oldest wasn’t developing like other children. When she was three years old, she was diagnosed with a developmental delay, which later on turned out to be a permanent intellectual disability.

She actually was an easy baby and a sweet, happy toddler, but her speech was delayed, she often didn’t understood my instructions, or just forgot them, and she only learned very, very slowly.

I could repeat, repeat, repeat, and it still didn’t stick with her. Her strong impulses got the better of her, most of the time – which is perfectly normal for a toddler, but she’s twelve now and it has hardly improved. For example: there is just no way she can leave that last cookie on the plate, no matter what consequences she might face.

Battle of the wills

Growing up my daughter developed into a strong-willed girl. That’s something I consider an advantage: when she is motivated for something, she just pushes through until she accomplishes her goal. Like she did with riding a bike: at age six she taught this herself! Although her motor skills were a little behind, she just kept trying and trying, no matter how often she fell, and one day we saw her riding her bike – so proud of herself! She loves it until this day.

But this character trait also was a huge challenge for me. It seemed like all my discipline tactics – which basically came down to Super Nanny’s ‘time-outs’ – failed, because she simply refused to sit on that ‘naughty chair’. Like, after an hour she still hadn’t stayed on the chair for a minute or two, and I had to rewind the timer again. And again.

I grew so tired of these power struggles. She just didn’t seem to ‘get it’, no matter how hard I tried and how persistent I was. And I finally came to the conclusion that, if something clearly doesn’t work, I need to stop doing it. I needed to take a step back and reconsider my way of parenting.

Humbling experience

Apparently, I couldn’t rely on common parenting methods, and certainly not on my ability to stay calm and patient – because I was lacking greatly in that area. I should have sought God instead!

Being the mom of this special, beautiful girl really brought me down to my knees, many, many times. It still does. It humbles me every day, because I face my own weaknesses, my pride, my impatience, my lack of wisdom, mercy and kindness. I know I am nothing without the help of God. I need desperately to be saved from myself!

I’ve learned – and keep on learning – to put my trust in Him as my Savior. When I come before His throne in prayer, He will give me strength and power to have peace inside, even in difficult situations, so that I can respond with more kindness and wisdom. Not that I have perfected this, far from it, but I am on my way! I know now where I can get help, because I’ve experienced He will give me the power to overcome.

I’ve also learned that it’s a good thing to educate myself about child development. And to look for other approaches in child rearing, for practical help and useful tips, whether it’s from therapists, experienced moms around me, or the internet. And now, when tips do work, I feel humbled, because I know it’s God’s work, not mine. And I thank Him for that!

Loving my children the way God loves me

Okay – I actually planned today to write about 10 parenting lessons I’ve learned from having God as my Father. But instead, I felt it was important to share something about my parenting journey first, so you all know that when I share some of the insights that have helped me, it comes from a humbled mom, who learned it the hard way – certainly not from someone who is naturally a great parent.

I do have an intense longing to love my children the way God loves me. I want to work on a deep relationship with them, so they are willing to give me their hearts and let me guide them through these first two decades of their lives. And of course I hope that when the time comes, they will give their whole hearts to God as their eternal Father and to Jesus as the Savior of their souls.

– Anne


25 Comments

  • Divya

    July 3, 2017

    As a special education teacher, this post spoke to my heart. Thank you for writing <3

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 3, 2017

      I am really thankful for special education teachers. My daughter loves to go to school now, because she has awesome teachers! Thank you for commenting!

      Reply
  • Jenny

    July 3, 2017

    I’ve worked with special needs students too and this post made my heart happy. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 3, 2017

      Thank you for your kind comment 🙂

      Reply
  • Karin

    July 3, 2017

    As a mum who currently is worrying so much about my youngest development, I have to say thank you for this post. It gave me great comfort.

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 6, 2017

      It’s hard when there are concerns about a child’s development, isn’t it? But with God we can find peace in all this! Thank you for commenting, Karin!

      Reply
  • Laura

    July 3, 2017

    I love how you talk about your daughter’s strong-will being a positive attribute for your daughter. I can imagine it really does help boost her abilities and skills because she keeps on pushing. Before blogging and staying home, I taught special education. And as hard as you can work with a child, you cannot force them to want to succeed or convince them not to give up when they’ve thrown in the towel. So being strong-willed really is a great quality to have (despite how difficult it can be to deal with as a parent sometimes lol!)

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 6, 2017

      Oh yes, I believe it absolutely boosts her abilities. I am thankful for that character trait! Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  • toby

    July 3, 2017

    this is so beautiful! i became a mom when i was 21 and it was so overwhelming so i cant imagine how it is with a special needs child. keep being amazing:)
    http://www.poshandspicy.com
    xx toby

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 6, 2017

      Thanks for your comment Toby!

      Reply
  • Amanda

    July 3, 2017

    Oh how this resonates so deeply with me! I too have these same struggles with my daughter, and find myself at a complete loss at times. Her strong will is such a double edged sword, but I know in my heart that it is one of my favorite parts of her personality! I find great comfort in knowing that I can always turn to my Father for guidance and relief.

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 6, 2017

      Yes, He is waiting for us to turn to Him in all situations! To provide us with all what we need to help our kids. Thank you for commenting Amanda!

      Reply
  • Kimberly

    July 3, 2017

    What a beautiful post! As moms we can definitely learn so much through caring for our children. Thank you so much for being open with your story, this is definitely inspiring to me.

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 6, 2017

      Thank you for your kind comment Kimberly!

      Reply
  • As someone who doesn’t have children (and has never really desired motherhood, but I absolutely love the children who are in my life), this is absolutely beautiful. I so admire how you incorporate your faith into your parenting and that you’re working to find the best ways to parent your children. Each child is different and there’s no one way to parent any child.

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 6, 2017

      That’s so true! No one-size-fits-all in parenting. Thank you for your comment, Crystal!

      Reply
  • Melissa Javan

    July 3, 2017

    Wow, you’re amazing for sharing this. You’re doing great momma 🙂 I love this post. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 6, 2017

      Thank you for commenting Melissa!

      Reply
  • Mjchristine

    July 3, 2017

    you are a great mom! God bless you with all the strength and God bless your little girl too.

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 6, 2017

      Thank you very much!

      Reply
  • Carmen

    July 19, 2017

    Absolutely love your mama heart in this post! I have witnessed a few cousins in my family with developmental delay and the best thing I ever saw growing up with this was watching my aunts being the best mom they could be. They truly inspired and still inspire me to be a great mother with patience. I have a great appreciation for mothers that set a great example such as this. I will be posting this as the feature for the Salt & Light Link Up. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 20, 2017

      Thank you so much Carmen!!

      Reply
  • Pingback: Salt & Light Link Up #10 - Married By His Grace

  • Taking a step back to reconsider our parenting is such a humbling experience. Thank you for your transparency and sharing your heart that is so relateable! Visiting from Salt and Light link up!

    Reply
    • Anne

      July 21, 2017

      That’s true – and I often have to evaluate again. Is this working? Can I do better? Do I rely on God’s strength or my own? Thank you for your comment!

      Reply

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