The phrase I hear most often from people is also the phrase that annoys me the most: “I don’t know how you do it.” I’m not sure if that is a compliment, a sincere statement, or a judgment. No matter what it is I usually just laugh and say something like, “I just do,” or other such nonsense. If someone catches me on a particularly bad day I might say to them, “What is my other option?” That one always stops them dead in their tracks. But I sincerely mean it. Seriously, what else can I do with my daughter?
I suppose I could put her on a plane headed back to Russia like that one family did. Or, I could treat her like a dog and keep her medicated and caged. I could believe some of the experts who claim she is severely mentally challenged and can’t control or understand her behavior. Then I could just slap a helmet on her head and leave her to her self-injuring without worry.
But I’m not going to do any of those. Ana is my daughter and no longer Russia’s problem. She is a human being who is struggling with one of the worst, most disabling conditions put upon a person through no fault of her own (RAD) – not an animal. She is not broken or less of a child. Her cognitive skills are normal which is half the problem; she completely understands what is going on around her. She is simply a little girl, lost in her own body and this very scary world, and I’m going to die trying to be her anchor.
I’d like to think that anyone finding themselves in this situation would do the same things as I have, and I used to say that to people in response to the Annoying Phrase. But I have found that not to be true, unfortunately. Too many parents quit on their kids when things get tough. Of all my strengths, I value my tenacity the most. Quitter, I’ll never be!
Lastly, or firstly, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without my faith in God. I know a lot of special needs parents get annoyed with well-meaning friends and family who tell them that God only gives us what we can handle, but I don’t. I know that is true – absolutely true! Ana is proof that God used all my strengths, weaknesses and past experiences to make me the best parent for her. Yes, God gave me a gianormous job to do, but I feel honored that he has so much faith in my ability to do it (with his help, of course). Without my faith that God sees the big picture and it’s not my job to understand where I fit in it, I would have given up a long time ago. It’s the same faith that allows me to praise Him and find joy even on the hardest of days with Ana.
So, even though I don’t give this long answer to people when they tell me they don’t know how I do it, I think it, and after I get passed the urge to slap them, I use the moment as an affirmation that I am serving God, good day in and bad day out, helping Ana overcome her debilitating first 20 months.