I remember being so frightened when we pursued the adoption of our first son with Down syndrome. It felt like we were jumping out of an airplane to skydive, just hoping the parachute would open. I imagined how life was about to change drastically. Now that we are in process to adopt an 8th special needs child internationally, here are some of the things that surprised me along the way.
First, I didn't expect how "normal" our family would still be after adopting our kids with Down syndrome. Sure, we added specialists, therapies, and special education, but really we continued to do and enjoy the same things as a family that we did previously.
However, I was surprised by how much the opposite of the above would be true of parenting our children with Autism.
I did not anticipate the complexity of navigating services for our kids with more significant needs. I figured if you needed resources and they are available, you go ahead and access them. Easier said than done. The hours upon hours of phone calls, intake appointments, and still we wait.
I was caught off-guard by the "hot button" issues that draw criticism from others, including vaccinations (we do) to special diets (we don't). Everyone has an opinion, and they believe it's the correct one.
The unexpected advice and even criticism that is sometimes offered by someone who doesn't understand your child's diagnosis. Ouch. It's challenging parenting a child with behavioral issues. Hearing how we could/should do it "better" hurts. We have many professionals involved with our child's care, and no one is more motivated to learn to help them than we are.
The unexpected social isolation that can occur, particularly when dealing with children experiencing significant behavioral challenges.
I didn't anticipate just how much I would love my kids, and how hard it would be to watch them struggle and how much we would celebrate progress and accomplishments.
I never expected how easy it would be to see my kids as individuals and not worry about them meeting certain milestones or developmental steps by a specific chronological age, but rather at their own pace.
I had no idea of the strength, ingenuity, and dedication of other parents of special kids. They will tell you they are just moms and dads who love their kids, but some of them are my heroes.
I was humbled to recognize that we can't do this journey alone. We need to partner with professionals who have the expertise and tools to help our children. We need the support of other parents traveling this road with us.
I could never have guessed how much time I would spend praying, crying, and asking the Lord for guidance and direction, because some days I just have no idea what to do or how to do it!