I grew up in the typical American family of days-gone-by. It consisted of a working dad and a homemaking mom with two kids and a dog, as the saying goes, though most of the time our “dog” was in reality a cat. It was not without its flaws, but for the most part I had a good childhood. However, nothing about my childhood really prepared me for what would be not only challenging, but also one of the greatest joys of my life – being Brock’s mom.
Lest you think Brock is our only child, let me assure you he is not. In fact, he is one of three. He’s the one in the middle. He’s like the icing in the middle of the Oreo cookie – sweet and well-loved (by his parents, his siblings, and oh-so-many others, too). I often realize how significant an impact he’s made on others when I hear someone say with great enthusiasm and a huge smile, “Oh! You’re Brock’s mom!” Yes, that would be me. Not a role I deserve, but a gift I’ve been given.
When Brock was five-years-old, he was diagnosed with autism, a term I had never heard before professionals began using it in regards to my son. By that time, I was already battle-worn. We had endured the haunting questions of our own weary souls (What is wrong? Why isn’t Brock progressing as a child should? Why is he behaving the way he is?). We had endured countless doctors’ visits, testing, and failed diagnoses with prescribed treatments that did not help.
I, as Brock’s mom, had been personally accused of being the problem by one psychiatrist, who declared there was nothing wrong with Brock, it was my parenting. As you can imagine, my confidence as a mother suffered. I felt overwhelmed, defeated, and unsure of what to do. At the same time, I clung to the verse from Joshua.
I prayed (a lot!). I read the Bible (a lot!). I cried (a lot!). I also marveled at the wondrous way God works through His people. In those moments when I most needed a bit of encouragement, some relief, or even a friend, God sent me just what I needed. Not only that, He also taught me valuable lessons through some amazing women.
Kim came into our lives when Brock was not quite four-years-old. My husband became the pastor of a church in northern Missouri and Kim was in the youth group. Kim was amazingly mature for her age and one of the sweetest, kindest individuals I have ever known. God knew I needed Kim in my life. God knew Brock needed Kim, too. She was always the first one we called when we needed a babysitter. We grew to love Kim and she definitely grew to love our three children.
Our second summer in that small community, the country club pool offered swimming lessons for children, even those whose parents were not members of the country club, so we signed our children up, only to discover that they were not comfortable giving lessons to Brock. I was devastated. Brock loves the water and I knew it would be difficult for him to see his siblings in the pool while he had to stay on the grassy hillside during the 30-minute lessons. Kim came to our rescue more than once by showing up to play some games with Brock. His favorite was when she’d spin him in circles – his little legs outstretched while she spun around and around. He’d squeal in delight. On one occasion, when she set him down on the ground he took off running. For some reason, he was not dizzy, but Kim was. She tried to go after him, but running in a straight line proved impossible. Of course, the giggles erupting from deep within her didn’t help as she tried to run after him. Fortunately, she did catch him before he interrupted a nearby round of golf, returning him safely to the grassy knoll by the pool.
I learned a valuable lesson from Kim that day.
I met Connie while we lived in that same town. She and her husband lived on a nearby farm. They began attending our church and we became friends, but soon they would become even more than friends.
It was during this time that we were working with many professionals, trying to find answers to the many questions surrounding Brock’s development. We were given Brock’s diagnosis mid-year in what would have been his kindergarten year if we hadn’t decided to delay sending him until the following year. We were advised to begin his education/training ASAP so we went to the school and explained our situation. They immediately enrolled him – calling him a pre-kindergarten student, even though they offered no such program. He attended the kindergarten class with a full-time aide. Though Connie was a teacher’s aide in the school system, she wasn’t the first one assigned to Brock. However, the administrators soon recognized he connected with her and vice versa, so she became his aide.
Such. a. blessing.
Brock thrived under Connie’s teaching. His language skills improved. He began to learn to follow instructions and fit in with the other children. He received praise when it was deserved, re-direction when it was helpful, and correction when it was needed. One-on-one time with Connie in the reading room had a calming effect on Brock when the stresses of a classroom setting became too much for him. Did I mention Connie was a blessing?
In addition to being Brock’s aide at school, Connie became a respite provider for us. While Brock spent time on the farm with Connie and her family (her daughter was Brock’s age and her son a few years older than him), I had the rare treat of spending quality time with my other two children. Anyone who has a special needs child knows what a joy that is.
Brock loved LOVED going to the farm! They included him in their day-to-day hard-working farm life. Whether it was doing chores, helping prepare lunch, or other tasks that needed to be done, Connie always made it fun. It wasn’t work; it was an adventure.
One of Brock’s favorite farm chores was going to feed the cows. As they bumped across the field in the old pickup truck, Brock and the other children nestled between Connie and her husband, Connie would make up songs for them to sing. To this day Brock still sings his favorite song from those rides – “We’re going to the boonies…”
I learned a valuable lesson from Connie.
I could tell countless more stories of individuals who God has used in my life, but space does not allow me to do that. Suffice it to say, I am so thankful for the many women who have invested in me; who have encouraged me, inspired me to try my best, prayed for me, spurred me on when I wanted to give up, strengthened me when I was weak, given me joy.
Written by Jeanette Cloyd. Jeanette Cloyd’s days are busy working alongside her husband Brent who is the Associational Mission Strategist of Greater Wabash Baptist Association, caring for their son Brock, visiting her dad and the other residents of the Assisted Living Facility in Fairfield where they live, and doing volunteer work. At day’s end, she spends time indulging her creative side by making cards, which can be seen on her blog Cre8tive Play, Facebook, and Instagram.