With Joshua's successful heart surgery behind us, we began to look ahead. How could we best help our boy?
Fortunately, and by God's plan and provision, our church had quite a few medical professionals who were more than willing to offer their insights and opinions. The first one was Mrs. Martha, a speech therapist. I didn't really know her that well before Joshua was born. I just knew of her as a Mom from our church. She was sweet and quiet. She came to visit us in our home and was such a sweet and calming influence for me.
Honestly, the minute you have a child with special needs, not only does your whole WORLD change...your language changes as well. You have papers and papers and papers containing medical diagnoses information and all kinds of things a normal, every day person would have difficulty understanding. You also have tons of information about programs and services and support groups and schools. Everyone talks about "early intervention" and how starting him early in these support programs would greatly benefit his life.
That was the last thing I wanted to hear. As a new Mom, I did NOT to be away from my baby...to put him in a "school" or a "program" where he was gone several hours of the day. Who would take care of him? Who ARE these people? He was so little. He had been through so much already. Couldn't I just keep him close with me? Couldn't I just do this on my own? I was convinced no one else could possibly ever have his best interests at heart but me.
But Mrs. Martha worked at one of these places, and so I went to check it out for myself. Not only would Joshua have the opportunity to be in a safe environment, he would be receiving speech, occupational and physical therapy each time from caring professionals. And he would be around other kids. So one day, when he was 5 months old, I took Baby Joshua to the Francis Allen School for Exceptional Children in Little Rock, Arkansas...and I left him there with total strangers...for several hours, two days a week. And I cried all the way home.
During the years that he went to that school, I met some of the sweetest, most caring, most selfless people I have ever known. And God changed my heart...and He showed me that I would need people in my life to help me along the way; that this was not something I could do on my own; that if I really wanted Joshua to be all that he could be, he would need this extra help. And so I began to listen to others more...and I asked for their help. I am in no way saying that I opened up the gate for whoever to work with Joshua, or that I followed every piece of advice given to me...even by people I trust. I was (am) still very skeptical and wary of people who work with my child. There are just a lot of unscrupulous people who prey on those who maybe cannot speak for themselves, so I am very watchful. And even people who have a wealth of knowledge in subjects that relate to our situation...well, they aren't IN our situation and they don't know OUR child. So, lots of prayer and discernment and common sense was needed. It's always needed.
We paid for Mrs. Martha to come to our home and work privately with Joshua on his "off" days from school...and she taught me what to do to reinforce what she was working on with him. She made therapy FUN. And the physical therapist from the school, Miss JoJo, also showed me exercises and "play" activities I could do at home to help strengthen Joshua's muscles, endurance and coordination.
You know, we all need people. In my case, I needed people to come in with all the technical/medical talk that I didn't understand. I needed people to come in and help me understand it because I NEEDED that information to help Joshua. I NEEDED for someone to say, "we've been there...try this." Even the times when I could barely breathe as I listened to someone tic off all the "he can't dos" on the list...I needed those objective observations because most of the time I was letting my emotions get in the way.
Now that my kids are older...man, don't y'all just look back and wish you could tell them to do all the things you didn't? Help them avoid some of the mistakes you made? Listen to you? This is probably exactly what OUR parents thought about us! Ha!
One of the things I preach most to my older kids is for them to have a teachable spirit...no matter how old they get. Too often, they don't want to listen...or they listen, but want to do their OWN thing...when we have been there and we know that their thing is not the best way. But, I don't always know the best thing, either. And sometimes my kids DO know the best thing...for them. I guess we all need to listen...MORE. And seek God...MORE.
And maybe we have to have a little life under our belt to see that we don't really know it ALL...and just like I pray for my kids to be willing to seek out and listen to wise counsel...I pray even more for myself to do that same thing.
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." Deuteronomy 6:5