Our church has a play every year featuring our children. Almost as soon as they can walk, the youngest ones become barn animals at the birth of Jesus. Our daughter is a natural introvert, so our first experience was somewhat traumatic. Stomach aches and tears peppered the couple of days before the performance. Her first thirty seconds on a stage took as much parenting energy as teaching her to drive.
Fast forward almost fifteen years. Our introvert is getting ready to compete nationally in a public speaking event after placing first in our state. Although she will probably always be a little more nervous than an extrovert would before speaking, she now hops up on the stage and can speak comfortably with audiences of various sizes.
In college, I was supposed to write a review of the play Waiting for Godot. I am sure it was wonderful, but frankly at that age my only take away was that Godot was a metaphor for God. I was also pretty sure the waiting (and the play) would last forever. With my apologies to Samuel Beckett for panning his play, I think we may just be spending too much of our time in our own production of Waiting for God.
At some point in their lives, most people develop a sense of missed importance. Most of us in our heart of hearts know that given a chance we could win American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and/or be discovered at the Mall by a casting agent. We know we were meant for something more exciting, more important than the normal mundane lives we are living. We are even training our children that way. “You can be anything you want to be,” is spoken over and over again to children all over this country. So we all sit and wait for someone to discover the greatness within us and introduce us to the life we know we were meant to live.
From the start, let me clarify that I am not an expert on special needs. I have had a few graduate level classes on teaching children with special needs though, and have done quite a bit of volunteer work over the years with children in a variety of settings.
I have had a heart for children with special needs ever since I was a child. One of the things about the Church that breaks my heart is most congregations not only have not done a great job at finding a place for people with special needs, they have done almost nothing to discover and use the gifts they have.
When our daughter was about three years old, she started getting job offers to work in retail. From the time she could walk, if a cabinet door or drawer were open, she would shut it. While we waited to check out in a store, she would automatically start organizing the counter displays to make them look neat and interesting. If I were looking at a rack of clothes, she would start putting things where they belonged on nearby tables. She was blessed by God with the talent of organization. (Which I hasten to add, she did not get from me!)
Some children are not artistic in any way. Their stick figures even look bad and they can’t carry a tune. It would be easy to dismiss them as having no talent. I think the Bible tells us something different. When the members of the Church are spoken of as parts of the body, it appears everyone has a function. It doesn’t say anywhere, “and for the rest of you talentless people”. God has given everyone at least one gift that helps the Church. The trick is to help your child find out what that gift is.
Our daughter had quite a flair for the dramatic when she was younger (I can’t imagine from whom she inherited that trait!). At one point, I warned our pediatrician I would probably bring my daughter in one day with an arm that had been broken for a couple of days. I told the doctor I wasn’t abusive. It was just that every tiny injury our daughter had at that age was most definitely “a broken something, from which I may probably die” (pronounced with much wailing and gnashing of teeth). The pediatrician smiled and said it was a common story from the parents of her patients.
If your child isn’t the dramatic sort, then the previous paragraph makes absolutely no sense to you and you can skip reading the rest. If, however, you totally understand what I am describing, chances are you too have given birth (after three days of excruciating labor – but I digress!) to a dramatic child.