Monday, January 26, 2009

Shifting Your Focus

Maria's note:

As you may or may not know, I write a monthly column for our local Parent magazine entitled, "Special Parents, Special Kids" and as I was writing next month's, I realized Julie, Kim and I were all writing on the same thing: Focus. Even though my article is geared toward reaching parents of children with disabilities, I pray all moms and dads will find peace in "Shifting" their focus once and awhile...and know that God has it all figured out, anyway...He is in control.

I’m sure all of you, like me, have many other responsibilities in your everyday lives besides caring for your special child. Taking care of our spouse, other children, our home—meeting the demands at work or school, etc…Things that aren’t always the first on our minds, because our special child may need more of our attention and energy, more of the time. Not that the other people and responsibilities are not important, just that when you became a special parent, things just shifted in the direction of that child’s needs above all—treatments, therapies, appointments, research, school needs, etc...

I have tried to multi-task to the best of my ability over the past 6 years, and train myself to be there for everything, all the time. And as I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Recently, I had the privilege of shifting my attention to other things (very important things) in my life—and I call it a privilege because I realized that even in the midst of not staring at my daughter and focusing on the next step in her treatment—she survived! And I gained a new perspective on this special parenting life of mine. It’s OK to make other people and things priority, and not feel guilty about it.

When other things take precedence over your special child, it actually forces you to take a few steps back and see the fruits of your labor. Most of us spent (or you may be still spending, depending on how old your child is or when you became a special parent) many of the early days in our journey setting up services for our child. Making sure he or she received the best care, the best way we knew how. We made mistakes along the way, but reached a point of knowing when to continue on a path, and when to take a detour. If you’ve been on this road for awhile, you have learned the ins and outs of the things that may benefit your child, and if they are a right fit for your situation.

When events cause you to change the focus of your attention to other things in your life, it creates an opportunity for you to actually be proud of yourself as a parent.

I recently had this happen to me, and when it was all said and done, I was grateful for my mind—that I allowed it to focus on other very precious and important things in my life. And it made my heart happy—that I gave my daughter the opportunity to shine on her own. I didn’t need to constantly have her on the front page of my to-do list. She was able to “stand on her own” so to speak, without me holding her hand through each step. The break allowed me to rejoice in how far I have come as a special parent—and how so far she has come on her own—without me.

Our kids grow and learn and progress---all at different times, and at different paces—without us. As hard as that is for me to actually say, and see the written words—it is so very refreshing. Many of us have been carrying the burden of our child’s disability within us for a very long time—and I finally know now that it was never a burden after all. It has been an honor—to be chosen to be her parent, and to do it the best way I know how with the support of services and friends—and God. He chose me after all, and He chose you.

Taking a step back from your situation and taking a deep breath will help you see that. Even if circumstances beyond your control cause you to do it, and your attention has to be spent elsewhere—it is worth it. I truly believe He wants us to capture each moment of our lives—not just with our special children—but with all of our children, with our spouses, at our workplace, and in our day to day routines.

Our children were given to us for a very specific purpose.

Not so we could minimize the other things in our lives, but to enhance them.

Enjoy each moment.

Take a breath.

Be proud of the very special parent you are.

Maria and her family reside in NE Ohio. She and her husband are the parents of two. Their daughter is a person with hemipelegic cerebral palsy.Because of her experiences, Maria provides parent-to-parent support for families involved in her local early intervention program. Her gift for writing has come directly from the Lord since her daughter’s diagnosis. She writes a monthly column entitled, “Special Parents, Special Kids” for the Mahoning Valley Parent magazine in Ohio; and has expanded into Parent magazines in parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. She is also a contributing author at's first published work is in Jan Ross and Jeanice McDade's Women of Passion's anthology, "Ordinary Women Serving an Extraordinary God". Both Kim and Maria have been selected to have their work tentatively included in Lori Wagner's upcoming book, Quilting Patches of Life, Volume 2.

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