I constantly worried about my four year old son’s development and his multiple diagnosis. I continually analyzed how far behind he was his peers, even children years younger than him, and watched them do effortlessly what we’d been working on for months and sometimes even years in therapy. I was so focused on my son’s development, I wasn’t enjoying just being his mom.
And then my two year old son began receiving a few diagnoses of his own. I found it very easy to focus on his anxiety and strong-willed nature, and how I wished he had neither. I resented his strong-willed personality, his anxious behaviors and meltdowns with all the other stressful things and never-ending appointments I was dealing with. I was so focused on my son’s behaviors, I wasn’t enjoying just being his mom.
And then I read this verse:
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).
I’d read and heard this verse many times, but I’d never put it in the context of my own children. The verse convicted me initially. I definitely was focusing on their outward appearance and their development and their behavior and not on their heart.
But then the verse freed me to love and embrace my children for who they are, how God uniquely crafted them.
Looking at the heart
Once I started looking at my older son’s heart, rather than his development and skills, I found so much to be thankful for, so many strengths and passions and gifts to nurture in him. For the first time in a long time, I truly just enjoyed being his mother and enjoyed spending time with him.
Once I started looking at my younger son’s heart, I started to see what the behavior was indicating. He wanted a little more attention from his frazzled mama. A little more structure in our days, since each day’s schedule was different with various never-ending appointments and errands. And once I started getting more intentional about giving him some undivided attention and more structure in our schedule, his overwhelming behaviors slowly stabilized to a more manageable level as he began to feel more nurtured and supported. We began to have a lot more fun together.
It’s easy to focus on our children’s outward appearance or behavior or development. It is easy to compare our children to other children. But we are called to look at our children’s hearts, as God does.
It takes an intentional mindset shift to make it happen, but by striving to focus on how God uniquely crafted my children, and their hearts, their gifts and passions, it is bringing so much joy and purpose into my parenting.
Written by Jenn Soehnlin
Jenn Soehnlin is a mother to two boys who are precious blessings and who both have special needs. She is the author of Embracing This Special Life: Learning to Flourish as a Mother of a Child with Special Needs.
Jenn enjoys blogging about faith and special needs parenting at www.embracing.life.
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