Do we think we’re the only ones who can help our kids with special needs, when others could share the burden? Do we worry about their challenges just often enough, or needlessly?
by Kay Marner
My 13-year-old son, Aaron, surprised me with some wise advice recently, which I’ve thought of often in the days since.
“Mom,” he said, “you’re worrying about something you don’t need to worry about. Let Dad handle it.” I didn’t listen to Aaron about that day’s problem -- but I did hear him.
Just before he'd arrived home from school that day, I had noticed that Smokey Joe, our fat, gray cat, had happened upon some fascinating entertainment. Following his intense, unblinking gaze, I saw that a small brown mole had climbed through a hole in the screen of one of our basement windows, and was stuck between the screen and the glass. For the next several minutes, Smokey and I watched as he’d scale his way up the screen, in hopes of escaping his narrow prison, and…fall down again, rest, and, I imagined, contemplate the likelihood of impending death.
Climb up. Fall down. Rest.
Climb up. Fall down. Rest.
The only way out was the hole he’d climbed in through, but, dumb rodent that he was, he just couldn’t find it.
Moles are known enemies of perfect Midwestern summertime lawns. They tunnel around just under the sod, right through the root systems, leaving patches of brown, dry, dead grass to document their travels. I knew what my husband, Don, would do to this self-captured prisoner of war. He’d kill it. I knew what our neighbor Bob would do. Kindhearted Bob -- who relocates bunny rabbits to the outskirts of town all summer long, rather than killing them for eating his wife’s flowers -- would take out his shovel and kill it.
I pondered my choices.
I could wait him out. He’d eventually die of exhaustion, thirst, and starvation.
But, I couldn’t do it. I’d witnessed his fight for survival. I’d watched his tiny rib cage expand and contract as he took in life-giving oxygen -- even as he contemplated death. I’d grown accustomed to his ugly-cuteness. I’d have to save him.
When Aaron arrived, I showed him Mole and told him my plan. Here's where he offered that jewel of wisdom: “You’re worrying about something you don’t need to worry about. Let Dad handle it.”
But no -- I was on a mom-mission. I found a piece of rope in the garage, and threaded it through the hole in the screen. Mole eventually discovered it, and, as was my hope, climbed it, and exited the hole. Step one was complete. Now, mole was stuck in the five-feet deep egress window pit. He still faced a slow death from hunger and dehydration. I lowered a longer rope, and through trial and error, trial and error, trial and error, Mole finally climbed it to safety. Mission accomplished!
Why did I waste half of a beautiful spring afternoon saving a mole’s life? I’ll tell you why. Because I’d watched him persevere through adversity. I’d watched him fail, and keep on trying. I’d watched him learn -- the hardest way possible -- by falling from great heights, and getting up to try again. Mole reminded me of Natalie, my persevering, little rascal with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) and learning disabilities. With Nat around, there’s no such thing as a manicured lawn. She digs holes where she isn’t supposed to. She scatters rocks in the grass that ambush the lawnmower. When she plays with the garden hose, she creates mud slicks where no vegetation can survive. She can be quite destructive, but, like Mole, she possesses an amazing will to live and learn, and, no matter what she does, I just have to love and forgive her. (Not that I love Mole. And, Nat’s cute-cute, not ugly-cute. But, hey, no analogy’s perfect!)
As for Aaron’s wise advice: “Mom, you’re worrying about something you don’t need to worry about. Let Dad handle it.” Yes, there are times when it’s better for me to handle Nat’s problems, but there is a lesson to be learned.
As moms, do we sometimes go to crazy lengths to throw a rope to our kids with special needs? Could it be that, given time and space, they’d crawl out of the holes they’ve made for themselves on their own, and maybe learn some life lessons in the process? Do we moms think we’re the only ones who can help our kids, when there are times that others could share the burden? Do we worry just often enough, or needlessly?
I think Aaron made a valid point, moms.
And, as long as Nat’s not dealing with a life-and-death issue, letting Natalie and others help her overcome the challenges life and her special needs place in her way is a step this mom hopes to take.