Looking through windows

Recently I read a story that pulled the curtains back from a window into the life of a mom and her difficulties with her young son. His behavior is so poor that kids avoid him. Classmates say their parents forbid them from playing with him anymore. He comes home from school and says he was told he is “bad.” He has been removed from that kindergarten now. His mom and dad are struggling to help him.

About three sentences into the text, this story gripped me. I immediately saw through another window. At a scene so very similar, so very familiar to me.

This other window gave a rainy sad view when the curtain was pulled back……

A few months ago I pulled out my mother’s diary and decided to read it for the first time. It was a gift from my dad back in 1937. Shortly after she received the gift, Dad lost one of his legs from the knee down in a wood-cutting accident. A few months later Mom delivered their first baby. It was a very traumatic delivery. The baby survived, and she was perfect physically.

Though I’ve had her diary in my possession for around 15 years, I’d never been able to read beyond the first few entries without just crying my eyes out. But I completed reading it in one sitting a few months ago. Mom was a woman of few words, just maybe a sentence or two each day. It wasn’t difficult to read between the lines, though. Life was difficult. And at the same time, life was good. Simple. No frills. They had all they needed on their little farm.

At some point in the diary their first little girl, my oldest sister, began school at the one room schoolhouse down the road from their farm. The diary entries went from words like “Sharon looked so cute in the dress I made for her first day of school” to “the teacher tells me Sharon has forgotten every single thing she has tried to teach her” to “Sharon just would not sit still and was disruptive in school today” to “I am so damn mad and can’t keep from crying” to “the teacher and one of the school board members came by last evening to tell us they just aren’t able to find a way to teach Sharon.”

And then…..silence from the diary. No more entries.

The silence spoke to me, though. I knew my mom well, I knew her so very well before I opened the diary. She was sad. She was frustrated. She did not know how to be a “good enough” mom for Sharon. She was angry. She felt like a failure.

Moms of difficult children can feel very isolated and defeated. And they self-criticize more than anyone. That was definitely the case with my mother. Guilt, shame, anger, all pointed inward. She felt like it was all her fault that Sharon was “retarded”.

There was no other word for such conditions/disabilities back in the 40’s. Call them all retarded and move on.

One of the most beautiful windows I’ve looked through shows me a family of four, two sons. One with autism. A mom (my niece) and dad who have handled the challenges with grace, love, dignity. They are proud of their son. I am proud of them. Grandma Madeline (my mom) would be in awe at the life her granddaughter is living as the mother of an adult young man with autism. The programs available to this boy were life-changers, opening a window of hope. It’s an amazing story, one that I was personally able to be part of for a time. It was healing for me to see through this window.

I spent thirty seven years watching Mom’s sadness and frustration. When she passed I feel certain her feelings of failure and defeat were met with words from Jesus like “Well done, daughter. Come on in and I’m going to take that heartache away for good.”

And today, as my sister Sharon is in fast physical decline at the age of 81, I can envision a day not too terribly distant. I can envision a window with curtains pulled back to show bright light, and my Sharon meeting Jesus face to face, healing in His arms. You know I’m seeing my Mom right there, too. With her arms outstretched she wraps Sharon up in a tight hug and tells her how happy she is to see her. I can hear her saying “I love you, Sharon. You were a perfect gift to me from God, and I can’t wait to spend forever in heaven with you.”

If you know a mom who has a difficult child, give them a break. Pray for them. Give them quiet understanding. Reach out with kind words and friendship. Offer to help in any way you can. That mom needs grace. You need to offer grace.

If you are a mom who has a difficult child with challenging intellectual and behavioral issues, there is hope. There are modern, effective methods to make your child’s life the best it can be. Seek help for you and your child until you find it. God loved you enough to gift you with this precious child. He didn’t mess up, He has plans.

And oh, my dear mom, if I could talk to you today I’d say Sharon has been taken care of very well. Sharon’s sisters have done a wonderful job caring for her needs after you passed. We learned from the best…..you, Mom. See you soon.