A Lesson in Tenacity From My Daughter with Autism
Even though she is minimally verbal, my 9-year-old daughter Rachel can stick to a subject. For example, this year she decided she wanted to ride the special needs bus to school. Every day, she would tell me, “Buh.” (Her approximation of the word “bus.”)
The problem was I didn’t want her to ride the bus. I liked taking her to school. It gave us some one-on-one time in the car and an opportunity for me to talk to her teachers. Plus, Rachel has autism and is mostly nonverbal, so putting her on a bus with strangers felt as plausible as me being able to read Shakespeare in Russian.
But Rachel persisted. I doubt she understood what was happening with me, but I decided to first let her ride a few days a week after school. That way I could still control her mornings, and she could get the benefit of the bus on a limited scale. Except, there was a problem with the email system and the right person didn’t get my note.
Rachel kept up her relentless campaign about the “buh.” I can’t tell you how many times she brought it up because I can’t count that high. By the time her bus paperwork went through, I had decided to relinquish my deep need to control and let her ride morning and afternoon.
The night before her first day on the bus, I made the mistake of telling her the bus would come in the morning. All night long, she was at my bedside every ten minutes to ask about the “buh.” I figured by the time the bus arrived, the driver would find me on the lawn in my pj’s and socks looking for my lost marbles.
Even though my heart rattled away on the bus with her, I knew I’d done the right thing. Riding the bus not only gives her a bigger sense of independence, it also helps me to trust God with her in a new manner. It’s grown us both. Plus, someone … (ahem, moi) had to learn again that she cannot control everything.
As I was reading recently in the book of Luke, I came across the Parable of the Persistent Widow. In the story the widow, like Rachel, is a person on the edges of society, someone who cannot always fend for herself. The widow had no means to exact justice for herself, so she cried out to a judge. When he ignored her, she kept hounding him. Finally, he gave in, not because he wanted to, but because he was tired of her asking.
Jesus gave this parable as an example of someone praying faithfully, in this case for justice. True, Rachel’s desire was different, but I still see her determination as an example of how I should be approaching God for wisdom in how to raise Rachel, for help with her daily needs, and for her future care.
The widow and Rachel don’t give up. Yet sometimes I want to, and I’m not the one at a disadvantage. But I cannot. God gave me Rachel to raise and so I must trust Him and daily depend on Him for wisdom in how to do the task he has given me. I must persist.
Sometimes being a mom requires a level of tenacity a bulldog would envy. Every day presents new challenges and obstacles. Every day requires a dependence on the Lord and a willingness to remain engaged in the messes of life.
On a practical note, we asked Rachel’s therapist how to handle her constant requests and obsessive comments about the bus. She told us to acknowledge it once and move on. The other times, redirect her without mentioning the bus or reacting to her comment or ignore the comment entirely. Continue with the task at hand with her. It took several days, but she has gotten better about mentioning it.
Hang in there, moms!