Son Shines After Mother's Acceptance
By Elizabeth Foss
There is a child in my life who delights in bringing me tiny treasures he has found - a
perfectly shaped leaf, a dandelion, a shiny rock, a smooth stone. He notices the smallest
details of his world and shares them with me with a shy smile. He will turn four this
week, and it is this child who has taught me the most about mothering; indeed, he has
taught me the most about life itself. And I know that the lessons are not nearly over.
When he was born, I regarded this child as nothing less than a miracle, a sign that I was
being granted a second chance at life. He was the child born after I had cancer. His
early days were quiet. He loved to be held and carried, and to nurse. When he was in
my arms, even strangers commented about what a content baby he was.
As he grew, he was anything but content. Unhappy in anyone's arms but mine, in any
other setting than home, he was a difficult child to parent. Since my first son had been
nothing like this one, I was plunged into a sea of doubt and despair. What was I doing
wrong? Why was he so unhappy so often? How could I mediate in order to convey to
other people how wonderful he was? Did I really believe he was wonderful?
My prayers were for patience and for understanding. I wanted desperately to know
what made this child tick and to know why life seemed so difficult to him. At the same
time, life was becoming increasingly difficult to me. He hated to go shopping, to go
visiting, to go to church. Anyplace crowded or strange was an obstacle to overcome or
avoid, not an adventure to be embraced. Birthday parties, which delighted other 2- and
3-year-olds, overwhelmed him. The bombardment of sensory experiences - songs,
games, food, even the bright lights and animated characters of children's amusements ,
were a personal hell for this child. He curled up into himself and searched for a quiet
corner until the party was over, or he cried so violently that we had to leave.
We discovered that food allergies played a large role in his inability to process stimuli,
but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Quite simply, his temperament is such that he
marches to the beat of his own drummer, and sometimes I can't hear the drum. It took
so long for me to truly understand what this meant in our lives. I tried and tried to
manipulate his environment, and actually, the child himself, to make him what I
expected him to be.
The true fruit of my prayers for patience and understanding was the moment, real and
palpable, when I suddenly understood that I needed to accept this child as he was. I
needed to acknowledge deep within my heart that he was God's creation, not mine.
Almost as soon as I stopped fighting and started expressing my acceptance to him, I
noticed such exceptional qualities. And my love for him blossomed into a flower of rare
and singular beauty. With greater understanding of my son came the ripples of greater
understanding of myself and of my husband.
I am beginning to see that his challenges are also his blessings - for both of us. This little
boy's extreme sensitivity (the experts call it "sensory integration disorder") has fostered
compassion and tenderness seldom seen in a child. He has the pain and the joy that
come with these gifts.
Sometimes, I am moved to tears when I contemplate the struggles that still lie ahead of
him. I pray that there will always be people in his life who truly know him, and truly
love him. I pray that with the pain, there will also be poetry. I can't express how
grateful I am to know him and to be a part of his life. He has touched me, challenged
me and rewarded me more than I ever thought possible. I look forward to watching
him grow. And to growing with him.
Foss is a freelance writer living in Springfield.
This article appeared in the May 9, 1996 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."
Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA)
diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe
Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.
Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN