Written by Sally Clarkson
“I have a Nathan, too!’
This was the comment I heard every time I spoke at a homeschool or mom conference.
My out-of-the-box boy – clinically OCD, ADHD, argumentative, on a small spectrum of other issues and with learning disabilities, certainly provided me with lots of stories to share through the years.
And I was amazed at how many women breathed a sigh of relief when they realized they were not the only ones with children who were often a puzzle.
My journey with Nathan was challenging, lonely, and difficult in so many ways. My most difficult challenge was that I did not have friends who understood him or my struggles in homeschooling him.
I often felt like a failure, living in and out of frustration, wanting to love him but losing my patience. It was a constant drain on my life. It’s why I agreed to write a book with Nathan about our journey as mom and child–so that others like me will not feel alone.
Now in my 60s, with him a flourishing adult, I can look back with hindsight and realize I have learned some secrets to being the mom of a “different” child that I wish I had known before. I hope they’ll encourage you.
1. Don’t live with guilt as an extra emotional burden.
All mamas blow it, lose their patience, and feel regret for not being patient, gentle or kind. Children with extra needs add more to our workload. Not only that, I have rarely met a mom of needy children that didn’t sometimes have feelings of “I wish my life and my child wasn’t like this.”
Negative feelings are neutral—they are what they are. What we do with our feelings is more important. Can we be honest and admit to God and to ourselves that it is hard and that we did not expect this difficulty? Yes, of course!
2. There is no magic bullet.
We must learn to accept our children for the person that they are and not wait for them to become someone we wish they would be.
Accepting them as they are and choosing to love them unconditionally, even if they never change, is a beginning point of a healthy emotional relationship with them.
3. Take care of your own needs.
This journey of homeschooling an out-of-the-box child is a long one—a marathon of sorts. There is probably no time when it will suddenly become easy, without tension, stress-free.
Plan for the long term by building anchors into your own schedule that will help you live a sustainable life:
- One of my friends would take Nathan to spend the night at least once a month so that I could have an evening of peace with our family, so that I could take a break from some of the tension he created.
- I went out for breakfast by myself on Saturday mornings to a favorite French café just to have some adult time by myself, and to breathe.
- My husband took my boys out regularly so that I could have a regular fun time with my girls.
Plan some alone time just for you.
4. Look for your children’s potential strengths and cultivate them.
Nathan could rarely add any numbers together, and he had lots of trouble spelling or understanding grammar, but he was a wonderful storyteller. I read him hundreds of hero tales, and had him narrate them back to me.
Now, as a grown man, he is writing movie scripts, books and producing films. (And he hires an accountant to do his math and to pay his bills!)
5. Believe in God’s ability to do more than you could ever do on your own.
I am witnessing a miracle every day in Nathan’s life. He produced a movie that sold 60,000 copies. I just wrote a book with him about families with children who are different, (his idea!), and I am watching him flourish in every area of his life.
He still struggles daily with some of his issues, but he is more than his diagnosis. He is a man made with a great story to live!
I didn’t know if he would ever be able to leave home. How God has surprised me.
6. Giving your “different” child a home where they can be loved is profoundly important.
Having a home where they feel they can be totally themselves, with a mama who loves them, is a gift they will take into their hearts forever.
Remember, homeschooling moms: Your love, life, and work matters for eternity! You are my heroes.