Originally posted March 5, 2013, at Joyful Chaos: Loving Four Special Kids. Republished with permission of the author.
Here’s my opinion: No one really knows anything, and there is no Answer.
I read a blog post recently on LivingLutheran.com under the “Ask a Pastor” section where a mother asked the question “Why?” The mom was asking why she has two autistic children, why God has given her more than she feels she can handle. (First of all, I hear ya on that one!) The question was answered by several pastors, and the main point I got from them was that no one knows.
The pastors wrote very eloquently and wisely about things like if you walk with God during your journey of parenting these special kids, it will give you strength. They agreed that it is not because the mother has done anything wrong; it is no one’s fault that some children have special needs. I do agree with the pastors’ answers, but I felt like there was no Answer to the mother’s specific question. They did not say why God had specifically chosen this family to have autistic kids, or what the answer is to the larger question of why difficult things happen to good people. The pastors didn’t directly answer the mother’s question of “why?” and although they had many wise things to say to aid the mother in her journey, some of them admitted that they didn’t have the Answer because no one knows the Answer.
I do believe strongly that if you have a spiritual connection, it will strengthen you during your walk through life in countless ways. But that doesn’t address the question of why she has multiple kids with special needs, she worries that she really has more than she can handle, she questions why she is the one to have to deal with all these challenges.
So many times our family has been in crisis mode with our four special kids. When this happens, we ask for help from the team of professionals who support us. We reach out to family, and I try to remember to use my spirituality to give me strength. Everyone rallies behind us, with new ideas to try and new ways to find success. But no one really has the Answer to the question of how to make our family more successful and less challenging. No one knows why our family has to deal with so many challenges. No doctor or therapist or friend can tell me:
“This is what you need to do to solve this problem for your child.”
“This is what you need to do to stop your child from having rages.”
“This is what you need to do to make your children more independent and not so frustrated, depressed, angry and fidgety.”
“And this is why you are the chosen one who gets to live this particular life … “
Oh, people far and wide THINK they have the Answer, and many are more than happy to share it with you. Strangers you meet at Walgreens. People at the library or grocery store. Even well-meaning family and friends. But really, no one has the Answer.
Truthfully, there is no Answer. There is no one-stop fix-all for every kid with a diagnosis. There is no reason I can find for why I have four kids with special needs while other families have no kids with special needs. There is no one Answer to the question of what will help a child. Every human is unique and different, and what works for my son probably will not work for a friend’s son.
One pastor from LivingLutheran.com wrote about how you can choose what your response to hardship is. You can change from asking “Why?” to instead asking “How will I respond to this challenge?” I thought this was a very helpful way to continue productively on the journey life has given you.
For some reason I have never been stuck in the “Why?” phase. Why do I have kids with special needs? I don’t know, no one knows, I can’t change it, so I figure I have to find a way to nurture and lead my kids into the best life they can possibly live. I don’t know why I have never gotten stuck in the “Why?” phase, because I know so very many parents who do ask that question and have every right to ask it. I don’t like questions that there are no answers to, I guess. I’d rather focus on the things I can find answers to. I guess that’s why I appreciated the pastor’s answer to the mom on LivingLutheran.com who spoke about how you can choose the way you respond to the challenges you face, rather than ask “why me?”
I remember when Ben and Jonah were born almost three months prematurely, people I ran into everywhere would ask me if I was feeling guilty for having the boys that early, and if I knew that there was nothing I could have done to change their birth outcome. I thought this was absurd. I didn’t feel guilty because there was not one single thing I did “wrong” during my entire pregnancy. I took the best care possible of myself and my babies from the day I found out I was pregnant. Their premature birth was something that happened to us, but it wasn’t because of something I specifically did to them. Even our team of specialists couldn’t find a reason for why the boys were born so early. Of course when people were telling me I shouldn’t feel guilty for having preemies, I felt guilty for not feeling guilty. Crazy me.
My mom once told me the most profoundly amazing thing that I have ever heard, and it completely changed the way I look at my children. She said “There are no mistakes. No accidents. Each of your children is who they are meant to be, and God didn’t make a mistake when he created them.” Whoa. I never thought about it like that before. It has helped me to accept my kids for who they are, challenges and quirks and all.
Sometimes I think there just aren’t any Answers. Which is really just stupid, in my opinion, but that’s the way it is. No one knows why the mom from the blog has two autistic kids. No one knows why I have four preemies. No one knows why you so often feel you have more than you can handle when you’re parenting special-needs kids.
I wish there were a black and white, obvious answer to “why?” because maybe it would help parents move out of the stuck that they’re in and move forward in acceptance of the life they’re living. But I don’t think anyone has the Answer. It just is. I just have four kids with special needs. The mom from LivingLutheran.com just has two autistic kids. Sometimes it really stinks and it’s really hard and you feel like you just can’t handle it all. But other times you find incredible joy and hope and fulfillment from parenting special kids. Sometimes it’s tough to see the joy, but I just try to keep focusing on how I will handle each obstacle, not on why I have been given the life I have. There is great joy in my life with special kids. Even though there isn’t an Answer.
As a side note, I think that LivingLutheran.com should have a section entitled “Ask Carrie’s Mom.” Think of all the parents she could help with her life-changing wisdom. As I have been writing this, Jonah asked what I was writing about. I told him the basic overview, and he said he thinks God made the mom’s kids from the LivingLutheran.com question the way they were supposed to be. “That’s just the way they’re supposed to be and it’s OK,” he said with all his 10-year-old old soul wisdom. I told him I agree. Maybe LivingLutheran.com needs a section for “Ask Carrie’s Mom and Jonah.”
Find a link to Carrie Newsom’s entry on the blog Joyful Chaos: Loving Four Special Kids at Lutheran Blogs.