How would you describe your inner critic? Tall and imposing? Outwardly sweet, but dripping with judgment? Adventurous and brave, and taunting you about your careful, steady life?
In today’s post, my friend Jennifer shares about hers, found in the inner struggle that’s so familiar for any of us raising children with special needs. In it, she discovers a great tool to overcome the inner critics we all face: practical, complete acceptance.
“Is it time to go to the party yet? Is the party today?” she asked again. From the moment she’d received the invitation to the birthday party, my daughter was excited and ready to go.
Days later, party day arrived. She was still ready, excited.
Then we got there. The darkened bowling alley with the glowing black lights, flashing disco balls, and music videos playing (a.k.a. sensory overload in the making).
“You may need the ramp to bowl effectively,” I offered.
She refused. “What will they think if I use it?” she asked, “I’ll seem different.” She tried to bowl without it, but after just two turns, she was exhausted. So I got a ramp and helped her remember how to use it. I knew that was hard for her. I worried how she’d handle it.
Then it was time for pizza and cake. I took her specially prepared homemade food to the table, where she had chosen to sit at the end by herself. She wasn’t talking to the other kids, including her friends from church.
When she wouldn’t even respond to the birthday girl’s parents, my heart broke.
“It seems like she’s struggling. Is she okay?” they asked kindly. “If you need to leave, it’s okay. Do whatever is best for her,” they offered. I wasn’t sure yet, so I decided to wait it out. She wasn’t falling apart (yet), just withdrawn.
After the kids ate, the birthday girl opened her gifts. Each child had her picture made with the birthday girl, except mine. She didn’t want her picture made. I didn’t push her, but I was sad she was missing out.
Then something amazing happened. We went back to bowling, and some of the other kids began moving the ramp into place for my daughter’s turn before I could get there. They saw another child struggling and began helping her learn how to use the ramp too.
About twenty minutes before the party ended, my daughter began interacting with the birthday girl and her parents. She responded when spoken to and made a few comments on her own.
Even still, I felt like I needed to apologize to the birthday girl’s family. So as we left, I did.
“It’s no problem,” they responded. “We just want her to feel comfortable.”
Once we got to the car, my daughter blurted, “That was the best birthday party ever!” I could hardly believe it.
What an emotional day for me! What a roller coaster of emotions from despair to frustration to elation. As I reflected on the day I realized I was the one who got the most upset. I struggled inside with a whole whirlwind of thoughts. The others at the party took my daughter’s behavior in stride, accepted her for who she is and what she was capable of giving at that moment, and moved on.
Then it hit me. In that acceptance and moving forward, they made the day a good one—for my daughter and for me.
I thought about all of the expectations I place on myself and my children, my husband. I realized how much easier life could be if I would accept myself and those around me for who they are and what they’re capable of giving that day, and then move on.
Should we give up on improving ourselves, expecting a little more, change? Absolutely not. But we should be accepting of the fact that it won’t happen in a single day and cut each other—and ourselves—some slack.
It’s time for some of that at my house!
About Jennifer Janes
Jennifer lives in Arkansas with her husband of ten years, two beautiful daughters, two cats, and two pet mice. Her younger daughter’s special needs have made her life more of an adventure than she ever anticipated, but she’s finally learning to relax and “embrace the crazy.” Jennifer blogs at Jennifer A. Janes and is a regular contributor at The Homeschool Village and the Home Educating Family blog. She spoke with Heather Laurie about special needs homeschooling at The 2:1 Conference in April this year.
I love how Jennifer captured this moment where acceptance silenced the frustrations and helped her enjoy the good in herself and her daughter. Like she said, acceptance doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t grow and change. It means we understand this truth and can live boldly in it:
It’s tough enough to be a parent without the constant inner battle with the voice of “You’re doing it wrong!” If that’s you today, I’d love to invite you to my new coaching group online. Come join others who are working to overcome that inner critic, and find and follow their God-given dreams in work, family and relationships!