Empathy. What is it exactly? Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they feel. This is something that I will admit I didn’t have much of. I was raised with a lack of empathy. When I became a wife, I didn’t realize I lacked it. I became a mom and still didn’t understand it was something I lacked. My husband would be so empathetic toward me, our children, and others. I was consoling and understanding to a degree. It wasn’t the degree that God had in mind for me.
When a child falls and bumps his knee, most moms rush to the child’s side and tend to them immediately. I was the mom that hurried to their side and observed the injury, kissed the boo-boo, and cleaned it up and treated it. Notice it wasn’t my child that I tended immediately, but the boo-boo itself? This was how I did things. I never knew I wasn’t doing it the way my kids needed. As I write this, I almost want to erase it, but there is a bigger reason for keeping it for you to read.
As I began raising my children with that lack of empathy, it was placed upon my heart to change. When my children weren’t feeling well, they wanted mom; when they got hurt, they wanted mom; when they were scared, they wanted mom; and when they felt lonely, they wanted mom. I’d cuddle them up and love on them until I refilled their “love meter.” They’d scurry off full of smiles and go about playing. I’m the mom that loves cuddling. I didn’t know that cuddling and being empathetic were different. My husband would kindly remind me that empathy is something we all need a little bit of. He needed me to be empathetic for him, for our kids, and for others. My husband would meet my emotional needs with empathy. I always loved that trait of his and thought it’d be neat to one day have it. The problem was that I didn’t know how to be empathetic. I believe it took God to lead me there. I needed bigger tools and bigger reasons to get me there in the time that He had planned for me.
I saw my child struggle with eating, chewing, interrupting others, needed constant hugs, crying when the tone I had with her was anything other than calm, shivering and shaking when someone else was getting scolded, plugging her ears when someone would shift back and forth in their chair, obsessed with certain things, and unable to focus on more than one thing at a time. I was at a complete loss. I kept asking myself what had I done wrong. I knew it had something to do with my lack of empathy. I just knew my husband was right all along; I needed to be empathetic. What was going on with my child?
I was ashamed to say anything. I tried to blame her for her behavior. She needed to chew her food properly and swallow it. She needed to stop chewing on her fingers and her clothing. I put so many demands on my child that it wasn’t until I found her entire lunch plate of pizza in the office trash under papers, that I realized something was wrong. She attempted to eat it, but couldn’t, and she hid it from me. It was then that God showed me that I was doing it all wrong. I stopped that day from being the mom without empathy. My life was completely transformed for my children that day. God placed this child in my life to show me how to be empathetic even when I thought I didn’t know how to. I scooped up my child and we cried together. We were both so confused and lost. I made it my purpose to find out what was going on with her. She’s not a victim of this disability. It just makes her sensational!
My journey with a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder has taught me a lot. I now know that empathy doesn’t come easily for many, but it’s there in all of us. We do our school day differently than those that don’t have this sensational experience we live with. The school work is done with quiet, no tv on for the little ones, no sounds but mom’s voice instructing, headphones for all digital devices to help with the noise, no running down the halls shouting with joy. We have quiet time everyday to bring everyone back to planet Earth, and we school with a lot of tools. I am by her side every step of the way for her school work. I tried in the beginning to run from this. I wanted her to be more independent with her school work. It backfired and she went recluse with all her work, even the subjects she enjoyed. It made everything we did fragile if I stepped out of her sight for just a minute. The tears would begin, the episode would sometimes spiral completely out of control, and our school day was done.
God showed me that my hand is there for hers to hold. I should give it to her and she can grasp it if she needs to. So for the next 3 years, I held my hand out to her. This journey isn’t mine or hers. It’s ours. I find pure happiness in her achievements now. She loves her studies and we’ve come along way together. I don’t expect her to read all her instructions alone; I will help. I need to build her up for this world. I’m her person to come to when life is just getting a bit confusing. I can scoop her up and squeeze her just right and reassure her that my life is so much more sensational with her in it. She beams from ear to ear. My daughter may be almost 10 but when I reach out my hand in the middle of a crowded place…..
she grasps it.