Yesterday was “one of those days.” One of those days in a series of those days that doesn’t make sense as I make food and feed my girls.
The day before, my youngest ate scrambled eggs with relish. Yesterday, she asked for them again and ate two bites.
Two days ago, my youngest ate spaghetti with sauce and cheese – two helpings, in fact. The next day, she asked for the same thing and ate one bite.
She asks for food she thinks she wants and then refuses it.
It’s enough to make me lose my cool with her; but when I assign positive intent, I see a little girl who genuinely thinks she wants what she asks for and then sees it and does not like something about it: the taste, the texture, the look, the smell? I can’t say because I’m not inside her mind.
When I assign positive intent, I see a little girl who wants to eat and knows she should because we talk about why different foods are important for the brain and the body; but she doesn’t eat.
When I assign positive intent and I take the time to see her – the unique and amazing child that God gave me five and a half years ago and not what she is or isn’t eating – I realize that living with an older sister who was diagnosed with Asperger’s (or high-functioning autism) only six months ago likely affects my five and a half year old as much as her big sister.
When I pause in the moment, I see a sweet little girl and a younger sister living in the shadow of her sister’s Asperger’s and struggling to discover who she is in her heart, in her sister’s eyes, in our family and in the world.
Autism is not an individual diagnosis but a family diagnosis. It affects all members of a family in a variety of ways and in recent years the effect on siblings has become a focus of autism-related studies. But parents of children who are on the spectrum already experience what these studies are beginning to show: that living in the shadow of autism brings with it its own set of challenges.
For us, that has included increased anxiety that shows up sometimes in aggression and anger and other times in regression and clinginess. Whatever it’s form, it is a longing to be seen, to be known and to be loved, all unconditionally.
Because when I pause in these moments I see in her the essence of each of us – the deep longing to be known and loved for who we are. The way we are loved by the One who created each of us. Loved in our brokenness and with our imperfections. Loved when we are angry or when we are needy. Loved when we are afraid and when we are courageous.
And so yesterday was one of those days when I made food and then made more food an hour later. And at some point she ate.
And in the midst of all the making of food and cleaning up of the kitchen, there were prayers. Sometimes whispered words of need, sometimes desperate pleas for wisdom, sometimes disjointed attempts of praise but always praying as ceaselessly as I was able.
Yes. Yesterday was one of those days: the kind of day that provides an opportunity for me to choose who I will be and how I will respond to the circumstances of this life. I am learning on these days that when I choose to trust God and seek His face, He provides a way through the wilderness I find myself traveling.
Because in all my circumstances, God is always faithful.