Raising a child with Down syndrome does hold many joys, but it also holds many challenges. There are no easy answers for anything. Intervention is essential for Benjamin to progress in his abilities, and this means extra work, extra frustrations, and extra tears from all parties involved. My little boy does not like change, and he fights hard against anything new. Since he is not yet verbal, it is often difficult to discern what his level of comprehension is in any given area. It's been easy to make excuses. It's been easier to play the “Elmo's World” movie than to deal with a temper tantrum. It's been easier to give him more assistance than necessary when he's eating than to clean up the mess he creates on his own. It's been easier to give him the soft spout sippy cup that he chews on than to fight with him to drink from an open cup. It's been easier to let him play with the familiar toys than to deal with the screams and cries when we introduce something new. The list goes on. Now, we don't always take the easy way out, and there have been countless times that we have worked hard with him over extended periods to develop new skills. However, we've realized that with the extra responsibility of a second child we've been more and more prone to let things slide. What's easier in the moment, though, does not serve Benjamin in the long run. No more excuses!
A few years ago a ministry team prayed over Benjamin while we were visiting the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. One person shared with us, “Others will say that he can't do (fill in the blank), but God says he can!” At the time I envisioned the “He can't...” coming from people on the outside. I pictured battles with school officials or kids from his peer group. However, the morning Shawn and I had our talk, I came to the sobering realization that I have been the guilty party in this! Even if I haven't actually said that Benjamin can't do something, it's been communicated by my own attitude and actions. I asked the Lord to forgive me and to give me greater vision for my son's life. As I tearfully shared this with Shawn, my sweet son threw his arms around my legs laughing and grinning from ear to ear. He looked up at me with delight in his little face as if to say, “It's OK, Mommy. I love you!”
As I said, there are no easy answers with Benjamin, but we know the One who holds all the answers. We may feel so inadequate in ourselves to face the challenges of raising a child with special needs, but the same God who knit Benjamin together in my womb lives inside of us, and He will supply all the grace we need to raise our son well. When I feel overwhelmed I must ask myself, “Am I accessing that grace?” In those moments it's good to remember what the Lord spoke to my heart during my son's first year:
I have chosen Benjamin for Myself, and I will release My glory through him.
His condition is not a tragedy but an opportunity for Me to show Myself strong.
Do not grow weary and do not lose heart for I have chosen your family
for such a time as this. I will yet wipe every tear from your eye and
restore joy where there has been sorrow. I AM God and I will do this,
so look to Me. Always look to Me.
No more excuses!