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Save Your Energy

October 22, 2009
By Maria Spencer

A very wise friend of mine gave me some great advice early on in my special parenting journey. She said these few, very simple, yet very powerful words, "Save your energy for the things that matter most." Her words struck me and made me stop and actually think about how I was utilizing my energy each day. And she also pointed out to me that expending my energy wasn't just my physical energy, but that we also use and save emotional energy each and every minute. We (especially us moms) have to be very choosy on the things that we will allow into our thoughts and emotions, in order to be the most effective parent we can be.

So I began to examine the ways I would expend my emotional and physical energy. My prayer this month is that my experience of examining and refocusing my expended energy each day will help you do the same.

The main thing I focused on (because I am such an emotionally-driven person) was how much time I spent thinking about and contemplating the things that are challenging for my daughter. I began questioning how much of my thought life was negative. Negative thoughts breed negativity. As I'm sure you know, we don't have time for negativity when it comes to our kids. Unfortunately, at the time, I realized that I spent most of my time focusing on her limitations, rather than her strengths. I literally had to retrain my brain to automatically see all the amazing things she can do, rather than the things she struggles with. This is the one that took the most time to overcome, and occasionally, I still have to remind myself to have positive thoughts rather than negative when it comes to every aspect of her disability the treatments we have chosen, how she functions in a school setting, and her everyday routines at home. Doing this forced me to see all of the amazing, wonderful things she can do, and how far she has come. So basically, think about what you're thinking about. You may be surprised how much energy you are wasting on unproductive thoughts.

Next, I took a look at the kinds of people that I spent time with, and the kinds of people that were an influence on my family. Fortunately, this step didn't take long, because I have been very blessed with a wonderful support system of family and friends that are full of hope and expectancy for my daughter's future. Pay attention to your relationships, and make sure they have a positive impact on you as a parent, and on your entire family. We special parents don't have time to be in emotionally draining relationships!

Last, but not least, I had to take a serious look at how I spent the very little free time I have left at the end of each day. I have historically been a "yes" person, agreeing to extra commitments and saying yes to each and every invitation. As I began to truly take time to examine this part of my life, I realized it took up a lot of my energy. I learned that it is OK to say no, and life will still go on. We have to realize that every family is different, and each and every family deserves to make their own decisions on how many social or family events they can commit to. This also took me awhile, but in the end, the bottom line was that my family comes first. I believe all families need to do what works best for them-take care of your family first, and don't feel guilty about it!

Because we special parents have learned the hard way what it means to be "on guard" constantly for the next bump in the road that we have to overcome. We owe it to ourselves and our children to save our energy, because we never know when we may need it next. Save all the good, positive energy for your family, they deserve it, and so do you!

Maria (Smaldino) Spencer is the mother of Jonah and Olivia, who hemipelegic cerebral palsy. Maria is the Family Support Specialist for the Mahoning County Help Me Grow program.



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