Dear Jackson and Maddie,
As Maddie likes to remind us on occasion, you aren’t babies anymore. You’re becoming more independent by the day, developing into your own persons.
I’ve said the mantras for years – “I’m not raising children. I’m raising responsible, contributing adults who love God,” and, “If it isn’t morally threatening or life threatening, leave the kid alone.” But it is a lot harder than I imagined to let you go. To let you find your own path. Or as I am repeating umpteen times a day of late, to let you figure it out.
You do silly things. Like wear shorts when it is 35 degrees outside and you have a perfectly nice pair of pants in your room with a warm coat in the closet. You do things differently than me. Like how you load the dishwasher for example. You are fascinated with activities that make no sense to me. Like repeating the same 30 seconds of a cartoon on your iPad. You do things that make me marginally crazy. THAT list is too long to even highlight.
But you weren’t designed to be a robot, to fulfill my dreams. You were created to be a unique person. A person who reflects the character of God in a way that has never been seen before – and never will be seen again. My prayer is that you will fully embrace the person you were created to be and reflect God in ways that only you can do.
This won’t be easy. It requires courage to be your own person. As Maddie said when I encouraged her to try something new this week, “But that could be dangerous. I might get hurt.” She was right. She might. But she didn’t that day. And if you live life only trying not to be hurt – suspect all you will do is sit on a couch with a book or the remote. Which isn’t much of a life. So be courageous.
It also requires effort to reflect the character of God. None of us does it perfectly. It is so much easier to be selfish when we are supposed to love. It is easier to flip on the television or disappear into the busyness of life than invest time in what matters.
You are entering a new phase of life. One where you learn more about who are you and have the opportunity to make choices about who you want to be. As a parent it is much harder to watch you than I expected. I know how awkward I felt during those years – always too much of something or not enough of something else. Always wanting to be someone or something else. I was well into my 30’s before I felt comfortable in my own skin. I want so much to spare you of that anxiety and pain.
It is one thing to watch this process for a typical child – this isn’t easy for anyone – but is to be expected. I’m learning it is another beast entirely to accept and celebrate the path of a special needs child. The future can appear so frightening and menacing. But truth is truth, regardless of the circumstances. Each of you is created uniquely in God’s image. He has a path for your life that can reflect His character and glory.
I might have chosen something different. But then I have to examine if I trust God only when His path follows my dreams. Or, do I trust that His glory will be better revealed in something different than my plan? Ultimately, I have to decide if I have the faith to trust God or if I would prefer to be my own god? Since I say that I trust God, it is critical that I find a way to live out my faith even when it is hard.
As you go through this metamorphosis, I am praying for you. Praying that you will embrace the unique person you are created to be. Praying you know your path in life is acceptable and valid while at the same time celebrating the path of others. And praying I have the grace to celebrate the path that God has planned for both of you.