Finding Grace in Parenting


“Why aren't you swimming, Colton?” I said as Colton is kicking his legs and bobbing his head in and out of the water. “What is wrong with you? They're not going to believe that you can swim if you keep touching the ground, Colton! Do you want to pass the swimming test and go on the slide? What are you doing? Don't grab the edge of the pool! Swim, Colton, swim! Why can't you do this? You do this all the time, Colton! Stop your crying! Are you kidding me right now?"

Tears streaming down his face, Colton finally finished his lap of swimming. Still in shock, he obediently doggy paddles to the edge of the pool. I've already turned away, shaking my head in disgust. I walk the entire length of the swimming pool distraught and angry, barely able to look Colton in the eye. 

The 18-year-old lifeguard with shaggy brown hair and relfective sunglasses, uncomfortably shuffles from the edge of the pool. No one is talking at this point. As we stand around and wonder what just happened to all of us, the lifeguard decides to break the silence. “You can just meet me outside and he can get his wristband there.”

As my daughter, my son Colton, and I find our way to the outside swimming test shack, I meet with another teenage lifeguard. Amber colored hair that cascaded to the end of her back fell over her shoulder as she wrote Colton's name on the “Passed Swimming Test” sheet. She awarded him his yellow colored bracelet, as he fidgeted with the edges poking the surface of his skin. He spun it around his wrist as he looked up at me with big brown eyes that appeared to be asking, “Can I take this off, Mommy?” Before he could say a word, I had to explain to Colton that although uncomfortable, the wristband was required to ride on the slide. Not a moment too soon, Lilianna grabbed Colton's hand and whisked him off with a big smile on her face encouraging him that he had passed the swimming test. 


Although Colton had managed to move from one fiasco to the next, I had not. I was so broken in that moment. I kept thinking, “If he could just listen to me and do what we had practiced so many times, everything would have worked out great for all of us.” But Colton couldn't listen. He was over-stimulated, missed his medication, thirsty, and cognitively slower that Saturday. Some days are easier than others. Some days days are definitely harder. This was one of those days. Some days I forget Colton is special needs at all. Some days it seems like we are a perfect, happy family. 

Thinking back to that moment in the pool, I step back from myself and replay the scene in my mind. What did I teach that teenager who watched me yell at my special needs son? Distracted and hustled, I was so focused on people moving from point A to point B to accomplish result C, I totally missed all of the hearts involved in the process. How did I bring Jesus there?


What I love about these moments is the Bible reminds us that God's grace is sufficient for us in our weakness. When I don't have it all together, I don't have to, because I can use that moment to prune my heart of the negative, the discouragement and the evil that resides, and seek the face of Jesus to get me through the rest of the day. Then I wake up and His mercies are new every morning.

This morning after church I picked up my son from Sunday school. He ran up to me with a big smile on his face and shouted, "I love you, Mom!" I found myself going back to the moment at the pool yesterday, burdened for the way I treated him, while he looked up at me without a trace or thought of who I was yesterday. Before I knew it, Colton grabbed my hand, looked at me, and said, “Jesus can do anything, Mom!” My heart softened as I started to tear up. But before I could speak another word he continued, “He took all my sins, Mom!”


I let that sink in. My son who doesnt' notice when others are making fun of him, who can't manage to put on his underwear the right way, who asks the same five questions all day long, understands the message of the gospel. Suddenly I realized it's not just me fighting this battle with Colton. Jesus sees him, too. It isn't only me fighting against a “normal society” trying to to make my “not normal” son fit in. It is God meeting me where I am, showing me that He sees my struggle and reminds me that no matter who we are or where we come from, Jesus sees. 

And that is enough for me. That is enough for me to make it through the day the next time my son is throwing a temper tantrum and flailing in the middle of Walmart at almost nine years old. That is enough for me to get to work, rushed and unkempt because we were fighting about if he could watch jet air planes for the 365th time in a row before school. That is enough for me to lay down my desires of having it always put together, wanting to arrive on time with well-behaved kids, wanting to do a million things I had planned, but just loving my kids for who they are, and who God made them, special needs and all. 

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12.9)