Saturday, April 14, 2012

Versatile and Very Valuable Volunteers

There's no way to butter it...

being a parent is tough.

Rewarding, but tough.

No matter how well our life is going in our new home and environment there are still the everyday challenges of raising 3 children who have mental impairment, major anxiety, autistic-like behaviors, and sensory input needs.

It is a constant thing.

We have days when all that is a little less and those are the "good" days.

We have days when all that is intensified to the max and those are the really "awful" days.

But, no matter what day it is like the parenting of mentally and emotionally challenged children is very wearing.

It wears on our nerves, our emotions, our heartstrings, and...

our marriage.

So, thankfully, we have life-saving programs like Friday's Kids organized to give parents of special needs children a night out, twice a month, guilt free.

The people who take care of our children for the 3 and half hour block are not paid.

They are volunteers.

And it's not just a GREAT thing for us as parents, but our children LOVE it so much.

It is a time for them to have complete fun with each other, other children and with the volunteers who are so excited to be there to play and learn with our children.

Last night was the first time in a month that we have had the opportunity to have respite care with Friday's Kids since our kids have been sick with colds for a while.

I try to have a sense of humor when I give the run-down of what to expect from our kids while they are caring for them:

"Brother is pretty defiant and very teenager-like so be prepared to be told "no" a lot and have him run from you often, or scream loudly."

"Sister may blow her nose at you if she is mad or frustrated or possibly throw something at you."

"Baby may bite, pull hair or pull your face off, but other than that she's sweet."

They laugh and I laugh and then walk away hoping they don't actually have to experience any of that but at least they have been warned. (smile)

Marc and I had so much fun reconnecting over dinner and just enjoying a meal without having to stop every 30 seconds to address sensory or anxiety needs of 3 different children throughout the course of a meal. Not only did I actually get to eat my meal before it was cold (as all mom's out there can relate) but Marc and I were able to look into each others eyes and talk about our likes and dislikes, what we enjoy about our new home and town and whatever else came up and we didn't get bit, tugged, or squeezed the whole time we were together.

Then we pick up the kids. The volunteers inform us that they did so well and the kids are just ecstatic and excited to tell us all about how much fun they had, what they did, how cool their buddies were and the 5 princesses that came.

5 princesses...

now that was new.

"Sister, what princesses? Did you play princess?" we ask.

"I saw Belle! And Sleeping Beauty! They were so pretty, Rachael! (That's what she calls me)"

Then the kids' volunteers volunteered the information that there were some city royalty who were all dressed up as the Disney princess and they just volunteered to show up at the Friday's Kids and bring some joy to the kids.

Brother was so excited to inform me that there was also Pocahontas, Jasmine and Snow White.

I am hoping someone got pictures that I will some how be able to get.

It is the next morning and Sister is STILL talking about it! She even pulled out the princess coloring pages she has so that she could show me which ones came last night and which ones were her favorites.

I had no idea that something like that would be so exciting for Sister.

My heart is so grateful to those 5 girls who decided to dress up and cheer up some children they didn't even know.

My heart is so humbled by the time that so many people are willing to volunteer their time on a Friday night to be with children they don't even know or have any connection to so that I can have needed time with my husband. The volunteers I have met have ranged from young high school kids, college students, young married couples without children and older retired couples who come in to spend time with my kids and others like them.

My heart is warmed to know that so many people out there are so loving and understanding of people who have challenges different from theirs and the acceptance that allows them to make new friends with complete strangers.

Thank you to all those strangers, friends and family who have volunteered their time and are willing to be versatile to all our children's needs and interests.

You are all angels.

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