Don't Pop the Love Balloons
It's very difficult to explain to people the challenges that Grace has because they are not visible. One of the many hurdles for Randy and I is explaining to her concepts that are abstract in nature...feelings, reading social cues, recognizing right from wrong. Things that other children can "read", she cannot. While she is almost 8 years old, she is academically closer to 4.5 and emotionally much like a toddler. And while she can speak now very close to her true age, her own understanding of her words are not there. So although she is able to say something, doesn't mean she can know the depth of what she is saying. You can imagine that for parents of children with FAS it can take incredible time and efforts and prayer to find a tool that will work to convey even a simple idea. Simple to us, that is.
This morning I found myself once again on her bed in her room trying to talk with her about her emotions and feelings and how her actions affect others. Words such as love, joy, peace, faith,not nice,sad,good ...these words do not absorb into her brain although they may her spirit. (I have spoken many times to parents about speaking to your child's spirit over their brain.) But this morning internally I prayed to God and I said, "Lord I am not walking out of this room one more time until she "gets" what I am saying." Call it determination, stubbornness, whatever you will, I believe God heard it and blessed me. "Give it to me God, unleash it. I need you now God!" I wasn't angry, not even in tears. I just wasn't going to settle for anything less than God in this situation. I wasn't going to pull out a parenting book or look up FAS on the computer or in my research library one more time. I only wanted to hear what my Father in heaven had to say and I needed it then.
Without thought, honestly, WITHOUT THOUGHT, words poured out of my mouth that landed on her in a way only God could do. I want to share this with you who are also parents of children with FAS or difficulties processing abstract ideas. I want to share with those of you who don't know what to do, who fumble over your own words and grasp at straws. God hears, and he will give you the words to speak when you have none to say. Our boldness to connect to the weak, oppressed and needy will rock the heavens because it is what God cares about.
If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noon day. Isaiah 58:10
So here's the story:
Grace there were two girls. One girl had in her hand a huge bouquet of big bright pink balloons. They were absolutely beautiful. This little girl also had a big smile and liked to laugh a lot. She wanted to give her balloons to other people so they would be happy and smile and laugh a lot too. There was another girl. She didn't have any balloons. She did not have a smile on her face and she did not laugh a lot. She wanted to but she did not have any balloons.
One day the two girls were walking at the park and came upon eachother. The girl with balloons went to the girl who did not have a balloon and reached out to give it to her. The girl without a balloon had never met anyone with balloons before and while she wanted that balloon very much, she did not know this girl with this smile and laugh. It was scary. She did not know what to do so she popped the balloon and ran away.
That night the girl without a smile and laugh thought a lot about the balloon girl. She really wanted to take the balloon and she even dreamed about those balloons. The next day the girl without a smile went back to the park to see if the balloon girl was there. She was. Balloon girl came over again and little girl without a smile wanted to be strong and take the balloon but as balloon girl got closer and extended her hand, the girl without a smile got scared and popped the balloon AGAIN. This time she was really sad because she wanted that balloon so much. She cried all the way home.
That night she thought about it again and THIS time she thought about the smiles and laughs of the little girl and how something changed. That girl didn't seem to smile as much anymore. The next day the girl without a smile went to the park again. Balloon girl was there but she didn't come over to the girl without a smile. She went to the other children but wouldn't come over to her. The girl without a smile and laugh did not know what to do and went home again.
Grace looked at me. "That is sad." "It is, Grace. Sometimes mommy feels like the girl with balloons. I want to give you balloons but you keep popping them."
Grace UNDERSTOOD! "I don't want you to stop giving me balloons mom." "I won't Grace, I replied, But will you be careful with the balloons I give to you? They are special and they break easily. When that happens my smile goes away."
We were able to continue the conversation along this line and it led into a discussion about her taking more of the balloons from me so she could give them to other children without smiles and laughs.
This conversation was not only in a context she could grasp but it was a safe way for her to talk about her feelings of insecurity and it gave her words to feelings she could not otherwise express accurately. We closed the conversation with her not only feeling understood, but she TOOK THE LOVE BALLOON I WAS EXTENDING TO HER through our conversation.
She said, "I am going to hug you even when no one is looking. And tonight when I go to bed, I am going to take your balloon with me and I won't pop it!" I let her know I wouldn't pop hers either.