Navigating the Gap

There is a growing gap as Israel ages, one that stands between him and his same-age peers. He's 3 now, and still developmentally much younger. He's still little and cute, with a contagious smile and twinkle in his eye. But he's also getting heavier, and it's not normal for 3 year olds to scoot around or not use words to communicate. He hits and grunts like probably any 3 year old, but that's the only way he expresses discontentment at home.

Here are a few recent experiences that have brought my attention to the gap. I know that it's not just me noticing the gap, but other kids too. This summer at the pool a few times children would ask him to play, and he would just stare back or smile. They would eventually move on. I wouldn't know how to intervene - do I just let it play out, or do I tell the child that he won't play with them because he doesn't understand?

On our way to North Carolina for Thanksgiving, we stopped by the play area inside the mall of Georgia. There were several 3 or 4 year old boys that were really playing hard! They were running around, pretending to be superheroes, and climbing on the toys. They would just stare at Israel as he sang and scooted around (and I don't think it was a black/ glasses thing, because they were of varying races). I wanted him to be able to participate too, but he couldn't.

The other night at the Christmas parade, Israel was sitting on the ground next to a big Christmas tree. A little boy came up to him, squatted down and asked him to play. I told the little boy "He can play, but he can't get up and walk." Thankfully his mom was nearby, and she offered that her son has autism and she is familiar with kids with special needs. She told her son, "Remember what you learned at UCP? We have to help him play!" That touched me so much. First, that this little boy who was outwardly "normal" had a special need, and that his mom guided him through the interaction in a way that I didn't really know how to navigate. They didn't stick around long, but I was really impressed with the mom for handling the situation that way.

Then there's church nursery. We visited my parent's church a few weeks ago and I didn't really know where to place him. He's three, but he's not potty trained and he's not really a 3 year old developmentally. They ended up keeping him in the baby room with Edith. It was just one Sunday, but it's hard to know what to do in situations like that. At our church, he is still in the two year old class because he does awesome in there. He loves his teachers and the toys in the room. I teach the 3 year old class across the hall, and sometimes I will bring him in my class when I'm teaching. The other Sunday I took Israel over during our snack time, and I poured him a cup like all the other kids and gave him the same snack as everyone. Will (who was also serving that day) made me stop from hovering and offering him help with his open cup. He didn't want me to to embarrass Israel. As I said... I'm still navigating this! Still learning how to help but also foster independence.

We've also been to our local library's preschool story time a few times lately. I really love this little program, and think the instructor is so sweet. They never make a big deal about Israel not participating as directed, and she kindly ignores his repeated pats on her leg as he scoots up front and steals the attention as she reads a book to the group. (I try to intervene, I promise, but sometimes it is really hard to handle both kids by myself- especially when Edith demands to be held, and Israel demands to scoot away as fast as possible). Israel doesn't really listen to the story or participate in the craft time, but I have to at least try to do normal things sometimes.

So I guess I want to say... there is a gap. It's widening every month and I ache a little as he ages. I'm so incredibly proud of the progress Israel is making, because he really is making progress! He's saying new words and walking long distances in the walker. He's eating with utensils and learning ways to communicate. He's putting words together to make 2-word sentences. There's still a long way to go. I know there will be grace for us along the way, but I just want to put a mama bear hedge of protection around him to keep him from knowing he is different, or to protect him from the looks and comments of his peers.

This special needs thing doesn't really get any easier with time. There's a recurring ache of losses and gains. I don't want to say "I wouldn't trade anything" because honestly, I would love for life to be easier for us and for Israel. But I know that this is the path that our sovereign God has for us. There is a bigger purpose in all of this than I can understand. God's glory is being made known through Israel. I'm being refined in ways that I wouldn't be if things were just easy and "normal." If we could wake up tomorrow and Israel could walk and talk, I'd praise the Lord for healing. But if tomorrow we wake up and things are still the same, I will praise the Lord because he has given me the sweetest boy in the world, with a specific purpose and plan that I just have to wait to see play out. For all the tomorrows of hope and expectancy, I'm going to just navigate this motherhood one day at a time. I don't know what I'm doing but I'm thankful for the opportunity to be in this journey and a God who gives grace in perfect portion.

PS. Lauren Casper wrote a really touching post about her son with autism. It's really hit home with me and says a similar message. Check it out here


  1. You plan and plan for the trip to France. However, when the plane lands, you realize you are in Holland! Holland is just as beautiful as France, just different! You and Will are amazing parents, raising your precious children as God has planned. Keep looking UP! I am proud to call you friends!! Love you!


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