I wrote this article a few months ago after Jonah began playing soccer. I didn’t publish it at the time, but as school is right around the corner, I am hoping to remind us all to love our children (and the children God puts in our paths) for who they are.
The fears were evident in my short, snippy instructions as we got out of the car. In the way I hesitantly approached the soccer field.
You see, today was the first day of soccer practice for my recently-turned-six year old son. The son with high-functioning autism.
In previous years, this son had played soccer with my friends’ children. People who knew his special needs and quirks and accepted him anyway. But this year, he had aged up to the next playing level, leaving behind the safety and comfort of our friends who were still a bit younger than him.
This precious child had no fears or expectations coming into the soccer season. He didn’t know he should be afraid. So instead, I carried enough anxiety for both of us.
As I watched my son twirl in circles while the coach gave instructions, I wondered what these unfamiliar parents sitting with me on the sidelines would think of his behavior. As he playfully bumped into the other children, accidentally knocking one of them down, I wondered what everyone thought of my mothering skills.
Did they question my discipline strategies? Were their whispers related to Jonah’s behaviors and my inability to mother him well?
As a parent of a child with special needs, particularly an “invisible” disability like autism which can easily be mistaken as bad behavior, it is often difficult to determine when and how to let others know of his diagnosis. It can be awkward telling people because autism is such a frightening word for those who are unfamiliar with it.
So instead, I huddled in the stands throughout that first practice, praying and silently willing my son to behave and listen to the coach’s instructions. I sat, rooted in fear, laughing off some of his antics yet at one point, marching onto the field to correct his behavior.
As we left the field after practice, I wondered what the coach and other parents would be saying about our family over dinner that night.
But then, as I listened to this sweet boy’s delight and excitement over the things he learned that evening, I realized I had no reason to feel anxious. Instead, I gave thanks to the Lord for my son’s innocent spirit. I was reminded that it really didn’t matter what other parents thought of me. What mattered was that I am raising this child to conquer his fears, to try new things, to do the best he can in whatever he attempts.
Moms, let’s do our best to raise our children in the best way we can so they grow into beautiful productive adults with compassion for others. No fears, no anxiety, no judgments. Only love.