Editor’s Note: Here’s the next post in Jeff Davidson’s series… Facing the Elephants in the Room, in which he looks at the overwhelming, but unspoken challenges confronting parents of kids with special needs. Today, he examines the challenges presented by envy and jealousy.
We all have dreams and plans for what fatherhood will look like. We have expectations and visions for the activities we will engage in with our children. Then we watch those dreams slowly change, adapt, and even disappear when we parent children with special needs.
I have counseled so many dads who find it difficult to lay those dreams down. I find so many men who can’t even lay down their dreams and plans for their own lives when parenting s child with special needs requires it of them.
I have a friend whose own life is so wrapped up in his own interest that it has affected his relationships negatively with both his typical son and his son with special-needs. The typical son does not share his common interest with his dad and the son with special-needs lacks the capacity to care about it at all.
This dad finds it impossible to relate, engage, or even interact with his kids because his dreams and plans for their lives were wrapped around his own obsession with what interests him.
Your dreams may have to change. Your dreams may be altered. Some of your dreams may even have to die. But whose dreams were they anyway? God has dreams and plans for our children too. We must vigorously pursue His dreams and plans with everything in us. Even if it means sacrificing our own dreams.
Every child has a destiny. Every child has a pre-destined path God lays out for their lives. That means we must surrender our own thoughts and opinions on what that destiny is, so that their lives (and ours) can be about His glory.
The Envy and Jealousy Elephants:
I wish I could tell you that once you encounter these two elephants for the first time, you will be OK after that. But that’s a lie. You are going to run into these two all along this journey as a special-needs dad.
Every time you watch someone else’s child do something yours cannot do you will encounter this elephant. Every time you watch someone else’s child achieves something your child will not achieve, you will encounter it again. There are no winners when you play the comparison game.
The only way to win is not play the game. This has been exasperated in recent years by the advent and proliferation of social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—we are fast becoming a society that abuses social media for instant gratification and to elevate our own status.
I tell parents all the time that they cannot compare their lives to the lives of their friends on social media. You have to remember that social media feeds are nothing more for many people than highlight reels. They often don’t reflect ordinary life, just the highlights.
One year we found ourselves creeping towards the dark side of depression after looking at seemingly endless photos on Facebook of other families traveling to the beach or to Disney World. So we decided that rather than mourn our own inability to do the same, we would fabricate a trip on Facebook. We photo-shopped pictures to create the illusion of our son at the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, meeting the Queen of England, walking on the Great Wall of China, and a host of other sites around the world. We had so much fun with our fake trip around the world!
Our journeys as special-needs parents are uniquely different. They are much harder and far more frustrating than the journeys of typical families They are too different to be compared to the journeys of typical families. It’s so easy to get jealous and so easy to be envious. It’s unavoidable frankly.
But as I’ve mentioned, there is always a flip side. The choice is yours.
We have to remember that everything God does, He does to accomplish His purposes and to bring glory and honor to His name. Our struggles become His stage. Our trials become His triumphs. Our weaknesses reveal His strengths. Our responses show His glory.
The way we respond to our challenges in raising a child with special needs, the way we let God use our circumstances to accomplish His purposes, the way we react to the trials—they are all part of the way we tell our story. And the way we tell our story becomes the way we live His story.
God has given each of us a unique story when He created us. We cannot be envious or jealous of someone else’s story. We can’t try to live someone else’s story.
Jeff Davidson is an author and pastor who enjoys speaking at churches, conferences, events and to groups, ministering to special needs families and individuals. Jeff and his wife Becky started Rising Above Ministries when they realized the incredible gift and blessing their own son with special needs (Jon Alex) was to them. Jeff’s book, No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches, is available through Crosslink Publishing, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.