Spitting in the Sun
Three years ago, we adopted our third child – a precious boy from China. He came to us at age two, a small bundle who was rarely taken out of his crib. He could not crawl or walk, did not make eye contact, could not play with a toy, and was still on a bottle. Because Aiden was deaf, we assumed his issues were deafness and neglect related, so for a number of years we worked with many different therapists trying to find the right fit.
Soon we felt God leading us to bring home another deaf child of similar age. We hoped that this fourth child would “bring Aiden out” as we had made very little progress. However, it was clear before I left China with our fourth that Gabe was nothing like Aiden.
Aiden has recently been diagnosed with a list of challenges: fetal alcohol effects, autism, PICA (swallows hair, feathers, and dust), sensory processing disorder, and mental retardation. He is now nearing five years old but mentally is more like a twelve-month-old. He cannot chew, feed, or dress himself, is not potty trained, knows no letters or numbers, has no sign language abilities, and does not sleep more than three to four hours at a time.
When I began writing this, my purpose was to give you an idea of our challenges. Yet as I write, the heart of what I want to share is the absolute JOY that we receive in parenting Aiden. Aiden has the BEST laugh and smile and is such a cuddle bug. He will climb up into my lap, and let me rock and rock for as long as I want. Since Aiden sleeps very little, we tend to get a LOT of rocking time in the evenings after all the other children have gone to bed. He is very easy-going and finds such joy in the simplest things. Currently he is obsessed with LONG showers and loves spitting into the rays of sunlight that come into the dining room in the early evenings. I caught a photo of this, and while it is a very strange and baby-like way to play, we have learned to embrace Aiden for who he is, not who we want him to be.
While Aiden has never told us that he loves us, there is no doubt that his love for us runs deep. When I get Aiden out of his zippered bed in the morning his eyes light up, and he clings to me tightly while I carry him. When I get him off the school bus in the afternoon, I receive the biggest smiles, and again he clings to me and laughs. Once every few months I even get a kiss, and it nearly melts my heart with the amount of joy that comes from that one kiss.
A huge blessing from this life is a lack of time to bother about little things. You know the stuff: so and so criticized your idea about the PTO fundraiser, grandma didn’t make the dinner you asked her to make the kids, you didn’t get invited to a party…and the list can go on and on. Have I ever learned the meaning of the phrase “water off your back,” as I simply have to laugh when people bring up these “challenges” with me. My honest answer is that I don’t have the time to care about drama. I truly DO NOT CARE about the little things, and that brings me such relief and freedom in my life (especially when a few years ago I would have been up in arms about any one of those things – or all of them at once!)
Finally, I have to share with you the joy that comes from watching Aiden succeed in some of the smallest victories. I will never forget the day Aiden’s teacher called me into the class to see how he was doing – something which is typically a very painful process. I bite my lip, try not to cry and cringe with how “normal” all the other ESE kids appear relative to Aiden. How they can count, talk, know some numbers, etc. and then Aiden is, well you know, spitting in the sun. Well, this particular day Aiden HAD learned a new skill: he could use a picture exchange system to communicate his desires. Right before my very eyes, Aiden picked up the picture of the banana, found his aide, and handed her the picture. When she didn’t get the banana fast enough he went back to his photo book, got another photo of a banana and brought her that one too as if to say “hurry up, you slow woman.” I stood there, in utter amazement, tears streaming down my face. I have never felt so proud – it was as if my child, my precious Aiden, had just earned the Nobel peace prize. Such joy!
Many people think my life is hard, sad, and disappointing. But that’s only their opinion until they spend time with Aiden. This boy radiates joy, has a heart of gold, and is as harmless as a ladybug. He has taught me patience in a way that no other ever could, and he has shown me how amazing unconditional love can be. There is no harder job, nor greater joy, than parenting Aiden.
~Melissa Kramer is the Director of Education for Love Without Boundaries.