Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Unsung Hero

     Today seems an appropriate day to make mention of my parenting partner. It's a known fact that I could not raise five kids by myself. Especially five kids with so many needs. The Lord did not bless us with easy children. He blessed us with amazing and unique children, but easy? No way. I hope they won't mind as I share a little of their challenges and gifts.
     Tawni. My oldest. I lovingly refer to her as the experimental child, because as new parents, every decision, for good or bad, was made in almost total ignorance. The fact that she survived our parenting and arrived at adulthood is a miracle. I am very proud of Tawni. She has not had an easy life. She's always been a stubborn and independent soul, struggling to find her place and claim a unique identity. She craves independence but at the same time, wants to be taken care of and will complain loudly if you try to tell her what to do. At the beginning of her sophomore year in high school, Tawni suffered a major emotional breakdown and it took almost a whole year and several hospitalizations before a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder was reached. Being a teenager and having to rely on heavy medications in order to maintain a functioning lifestyle has not been easy for Tawni, or her parents. But she is an amazing young woman and I know there aren't many people that could deal with her challenges and rise above them like she has.
     Rebeka. My second daughter is an absolute joy. She is sunshine personified and when she walks into a room you can feel it brighten. She, like her older sister, is stubborn and independent. Beka has always exuded a strong sense of independence. From the time she was teeny wee. At nine months old she refused to let me feed her and had to do it all herself. Beka had some challenges early on in life. She developed a massive kidney infection when she was only seven weeks old and spent a week in the hospital. At ten months, she developed a strange serum sickness that left burn-like welts all over her body. She was on steroids because all her internal organs were swollen. To this day, we don't know what caused this illness. You wouldn't know it today, but when Beka was three years old, she still wasn't speaking. We enrolled her in an early intervention pre-school program where she received lots of special help and was diagnosed with a communication delay. She received lots of help during school from special education classes and now, as an upcoming sophomore, the only help she needs is with math. She is a very hard worker and her early experiences have given her a love of those with special needs. She is an amazing peer tutor and wants to teach special ed when she grows up.
     Zack. My first boy. For the first four years of his life, he could do no wrong. Everything was cute and sweet and I relished every moment with him. I thought he was my last baby and so I spoiled him with love and affection. Zack was not independent like his sisters. He wanted very much to be taken care of and still does. When I think of him, total sweetness is what pops into my brain. He is kind, loving, compassionate, and has an incredible memory for dates and details--just not with homework. When Zack was six years old, he started exhibiting vocal and muscular tics. My heart sank because I knew what it was. Tourette Syndrome runs rampant in my family gene pool and my precious boy was diagnosed. In addition to the challenges of Tourette's, Zack also suffers from panic attacks due to high anxiety and he also suffers from ADD. That's a lot for one twelve-year-old. He's had to endure teasing and ridicule from kids at school because of his tics and like Tawni, he takes lots of strong medications to keep the symptoms of his problems at bay. But one of Zack's greatest strengths is his love of the gospel. He seems to have been born with it and this love and knowledge help him on daily basis.
     Ian. If you don't know what his issues are, you need to go back to the beginning of my blog and read every entry. Fetal Alcohol Effects, asthma, allergies... there's a lot. But here, I'd like to focus on his strengths. He is a happy kid. Just is. It's infectious and you can't help but be taken in by his laugh and the twinkle in his eyes. He loves people and friends. He loves his family and lately, he comes into my bed in the mornings and wants to snuggle. He is independent and can do many things for himself. He knows how to make chicken nuggets and hot dogs and will often fix his own peanut butter sandwiches. He loves to wash dishes and will hurry to get his chores done for the right incentive. His is compassionate and possesses such a love for life and it's experiences that I'm often amazed he's not in trouble more than he normally is. He loves to talk and asks constant questions about how an engine works and will he be alive when Jesus comes again. He always wants to know about Heaven and where it is and the other day he asked his Dad, "Why did you choose me?"
     Christeal. She is another happy soul and our home is so much richer with her in it. I cannot imagine life without her but I still don't know what the future holds for us in regards to her. She's been with us for almost eight months. There's a hearing on the 29th of this month and we should know something then. She, like Ian, loves to come into my room in the mornings and snuggle. She'll push Ian aside and say, "My Mommy." And then the two of them will fight over me and Scott and it usually ends in tears but that's okay. I still love it. Christeal's vocabulary is huge for a two-year-old and she will often speak in six word sentences. She is very smart and has an incredible memory. She also has some attitude. I told her to do something the other day that she didn't want to do. She put her hands on her hips, stuck her chin out and said, "Fine!" But like all my other kids, she too possesses some unique challenges. She was born with a club foot and has undergone surgeries and wears a brace at night. She also is extremely OCD. It's hard for her to eat because if she gets food on her hands or person, she comes unglued. Everything has a place and must be in its place. Blankets need to be just right, things need to be done in a certain order, and I have no doubt that someday, she will need to be medicated for her disorder.
     Five amazing children. Many challenges and strengths. Like I said at the beginning, I could not raise them without my husband. God gave me a great gift when He gave me Scott. He is a good provider and has never balked at hard work or holding down three jobs at a time. He is a handyman and always keeps our home in good shape. He is the best dad on the planet and takes an active role in raising his kids. Just an example. The church always has suggestions for fathers. They suggest a father take the time to meet with his children regularly, see how they are doing, offer a blessing. Scott's philosophy is this; If you have to schedule a time to meet with your child, then you aren't doing your job. Scott is available to his children all the time. Even at work. Zack was having a panic attack one night at eleven. We called Scott and he talked to Zack until he'd calmed down and could rest. Scott always takes the time to listen when his children want to talk, which is a lot. He helps with scouts, school projects that Mom can't do, he teaches young people how to mow the lawn, drive cars, drive a boat... He does so much and remains upbeat and positive most of the time. Over the years, we've had 40+ foster/shelter children come through our door. Scott has been involved in all of it, treating each child as if he were their actual dad.
     Scott and I have been married for almost twenty years and I could not have chosen a better partner. He is my hero and I know our kids feel the same.