Why Additional Needs Parenting Is Like Body Surfing!

Have you ever tried body surfing?  Think surfing, but without a surfboard or body board, just using your own body and maybe a small hand board to ride the waves.  Just you, the surf, and the beach…  idyllic thought isn’t it?  So, what has this picturesque scene got to do with additional needs parenting?

Well it all depends on the size of the waves!

Small waves
We face and deal with small waves every day, the kind of waves that are about getting everyone up and navigating our way through all of the challenges of a typical day before we crash into bed at night.  Sometimes just making sure everyone is dressed, fed, and is alive by the end of the day is all we can manage, but we generally cope with the small waves.


Sometimes they can, like with real body surfing, be great fun too!  Helping us to experience new things, to learn more about our child or ourselves, to grow and develop.  We might find ourselves washed up on the beach from time-to-time, but we and our child jump up and run back in to the surf once more to try again.

Bigger waves
Some days are different.  Some days we face bigger waves, waves that can overwhelm us, waves that toss us around and pound us into the sea bed below.  Waves that fill us with uncertainty and fear.  Like when our phone rings and we look and see that it is school calling.  Or when our child has a seizure, or becomes seriously ill, and is rushed into hospital.  Or when we get that letter telling us that our child is being reassessed for their benefits.

Bigger waves

There are many bigger waves that crash down on us as we parent our child with additional needs or disability, more than we can probably count, but through them all we learn to be resilient, to ride as many waves as we can and to come back up for air again.

Biggest waves
As parents of a child with additional needs or disabilities, we will all face the biggest waves, maybe more than once.  These are the waves that can break us, can leave us with scars that last for life; waves that can even drown some of us.  Like the wave that hits us when we receive the diagnosis for our child, or the wave that hits us when our partner cannot cope any more and leaves, or even the monster wave that carries our beloved child away for ever.

Huge waves

These waves do not come often, but when they do they can be devastating.  We cannot body surf them, they are too powerful.  We cannot duck under them, they run too deep.  We cannot swim over them, they are too high.  We can do nothing other than to be carried along by the force of the wave to wherever it takes us.

But whether we are playing in the small waves, being tossed around by the bigger waves, or being broken by the biggest waves, we do not need to do so alone.  The Lord of the wind and waves longs to be there with us, reaching out for us, longing for us to take his hand.

Let us be inspired by these two stories of Jesus in the storm:

“Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey him!”  Matthew 8:23-27

“…and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”  Matthew 14:24-33

What we learn from these passages is that the waves, even the biggest ones, are under the rule of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  That whatever we might face, however frightening it may be, he is there with us.  And that if we keep our eyes fixed on him, if we trust in him, we can walk on the waves!!

So, let us face the waves of life with new hope, with trust in our hearts, and with renewed faith…  Let us not just body surf through the waves of life, but let’s ask Jesus to help us dance on them!



Mark Arnold
26th September 2018

Bible passage used in this blog post:  Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Image rights: © beachbaby.net (small waves), wasa surf school (medium waves), bondiworld.com.au (huge wave)

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