Think of a time when you simply gazed into the eyes of a two-month-old, completely overcome by their being, without judgment; without the need to do anything other than immerse yourself in their presence.
How often do you remember doing this with your littles under one? It occurred to me, while visiting my three-month-old niece for the first time, that I don’t remember delighting in such simple, yet profound, moments with my daughters when they were very small. Perhaps it was because I was too tired, too overwhelmed, too busy juggling everything at once; perhaps my own feelings of lack didn't allow me to appreciate such simple moments; perhaps it was the postpartum with my oldest daughter, or maybe I was too consumed by worry with my youngest daughter with special needs; perhaps it was that I wasn't present enough with myself, that I was too disconnected from my own essence to have the ability to tune into them on such a deep level.
Like many parents, I was so busy 'doing' or helping my children ‘do’ that I rarely sat to just ‘be’ with them when they were tiny.
I often look at old pictures of my youngest daughter Gabi; she was so beautiful, smiling and happy just being herself, exploring life with enthusiasm at her own pace. Completely unaware that there was anything to fret about. It saddens me to think of how little I truly saw her then - how much my mind was consumed by her delays, her seizure disorder, and her health challenges - to really delight in her being. How I wish I could turn back time. How I wish I'd been more conscious then.
As I sat on my brother’s couch, with my niece laying on my thighs facing me, I was so immersed in her essence, it was as though there was a bubble around us, blocking out the outside world, so much so, that my brother and sister in law made their way to the kitchen to prepare dinner, not to disturb our special moment. She cooed and smiled in response to my words, as though we were having a dialogue. My heart expanded and remained this way as we exchanged as though we were connecting on various dimensions. I could have sat there for hours, just being present with her.
As our eyes met for the first time, it was as though she told me “oh, I know you, so wonderful to see you again", after which, there was an ease between us, like we’d known each other for a very long time. It was a beautiful moment; so authentic, I wished I could have stayed there.
Rarely do we get to experience such real moments, such unconditional love and presence. Without words or action - a deep connection was formed. These are the moments not to miss. These are the moments that are real. These are the moments that matter most, as they are the root of attachment.
Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute, speaks to infants teaching us connection and attunement, something we are forced into as a way to understand their needs. The same applies to our children with special needs, except it goes beyond infancy.
Our Differently Abled Children Are Already Whole
I believe we have it all wrong. We try to make our children with special needs like us, when in fact they are not meant to be like us. They are meant to help us tune into deeper parts of ourselves, thus allowing us to better tune into them. They help us widen our sensorial and energetic awareness; they teach us to feel our way through life; they help us reconnect with our own uniqueness as a way to see them in their brilliance. As Fred Rogers beautifully shared in a quote, “only by understanding our own uniqueness can we fully appreciate how special our neighbor really is”.
Choosing to heal our own feelings of lack and unworthiness help us accept and eventually embrace our children with special needs as they are. The challenge lies in our ability to change our focus from one of lack to one of abundance. Unfortunately, many parents of children with special needs are so focused on their children's limitations, what their children are not doing, drowning in worry about their future, that they fail to notice, appreciate and acknowledge what their children are doing, what they do emanate, and what is beautiful and unique about them.
Don't beat yourself up - most people operate from a place of lack. I was a culprit to this, until I finally awakened to my authentic self and to the true meaning of life. In becoming aware of how we view life, we become empowered to shift our perspective. Have you ever noticed how often you judge yourself in a day? How many times you feel unworthy, or not good enough? How often you think of what you don't have rather than be grateful for what is already yours? How often you think about the future and what will be, rather than delighting in the now? When we see life from a place of lack, lack is everywhere - including in the way we view our children.
When you feel whole within yourself and see life from the lens of gratitude - you begin to see your child in a whole new way. When we feel whole, there is no need for our children to be any other way than who they are. This doesn't mean we stop supporting them to develop and thrive - it means we do it without an agenda, without expectation and allow the child to have a say.
To allow our children to be free to express their light in the way they were meant to express it means that we must detach from any desirable outcome and open up to the wholeness our child already embodies.
I know firsthand how challenging this is as a mother to a child with a severe disability. It is not something that is resolved over a few weeks or months. It takes years to part from our own false selves as a means to finally have the ability to see our kids in their individual light. The beauty of this journey is that you can’t help your child unless you help yourself first, leading to much more joyful and meaningful lives.
Redirecting our focus to healing that which makes us feel unworthy as a means to fully accept and see our child as he is, is where the journey towards supporting our children towards their highest potential begins. Then, developing our ability to tune into our child’s essence - their inner being becomes the key to uncovering how best to help them shine.