I discuss some of our recent struggles during a dinner with the focus that if you are struggling with a child who has special needs you can have fun while trying to find solutions.
Praise God for this wonderful opportunity!
One Bite at a Time
By Carrie Dahlin
I set the table for dinner anticipating another meal with Katie crying and not wanting to eat. She is our 2-year-old foster daughter with a long list of special needs. As we sit down at the table I start trying my usual tricks to try to get her to eat some food, she finally takes a bite. I clap with excitement and give her praises. She responds with a huge grin.
So, as she takes each bite, my husband and I clap and cheer along with our three other children. I didn't get to eat much because I was spending my time clapping after every time her fork headed toward her mouth. By the end of the meal my husband and I look at each other and laugh. We both realize it was one of the silliest meals we have had in a long time.
Later that night standing at my kitchen sink cleaning up from our meal I listen to the kids play in the living room and I feel a bit of success. Even if it was just one meal, Katie ate an entire plateful and we had a fun as a family. I wonder what it would be like if we eagerly clapped after every bite, while out at a restaurant? Having children with special needs means maybe you don't always do things the typical way, but it doesn't mean you can't try to have a good time through the hard moments.
Earlier in the day I felt defeated but one dinner of excitement made me feel like I could do this, I could get through these new struggles if I can be creative and have patience with my children.
I decided a while ago to keep a journal. I want to keep reminders of our accomplishments and moments of joy. There will be more days to come when I feel drained and out of ideas. I want to remember the moments that we finally had a break through.
I got this idea after I ran into a friend at the store. She hadn’t seen Katie in almost a year and she was near tears after seeing how much progress she had made.
My friend was so shocked by Katie who is social and talkative, even if you couldn’t understand all of her words. Katie was able to ride in the cart and engage with out being in a constant state of distress.
I was so struck by her reaction. I realized I see Katie on a regular basis and don’t always notice the changes. I wanted to remember her reaction as a reminder that there is hope. Katie will continue to grow and improve. Some day she will eat her meals and we will think back to the days we clapped through dinner. It is easy to get discouraged when we go through a trial that lasts longer than we think it should. We can get stuck focusing what isn’t happening or going our way. Instead, we should keep our eyes focused on our goals and progress we make.
There are days when I am so thankful that we only take life one bite at a time. I don’t know if I could handle more than that. These children we take into our homes come from such tragedy and we have the responsibility to walk through it with them in a way that shows them we accept them right where they are. It is my hope that I will continue to cheer Katie on, even in the little things.