Once a caring friend asked if I was afraid Jacob was going to hurt me. “I am more afraid of accidentally hurting him”, was my answer. Jacob isn’t a big fella, he barely weighs 100 pounds. He has been described as scrawny, thin, and underweight. I am continually thankful to God that he isn’t over 6’ tall like his brother. But, seriously, his strength is deceiving. Just ask the trained dental staff when he goes for a check-up twice a year!! I know the words scrawny and strength don’t seem to go together – actually contradict each other. That’s why I threw the word surprising in there because Jacob’s strength surprises anyone who spends much time around him.
Sometimes I find myself using the term ‘strong-arming’ when I’m describing an interaction with Jacob.
strong-arm (strông′ärm′) Informal adj.
Using physical force or coercion: strong-arm tactics.
tr.v. strong-armed, strong-arm·ing, strong-arms
To use physical force or coercion against.
Whether it is dressing, shaving, brushing his teeth, taking medicine, etc., if the mood strikes him and he decides not to cooperate, he will grab my forearms and lock his. I am left struggling to accomplish the task at hand. I know. I know. It can’t be that hard to break free. It is. It just is. I have had bruises on my arms from the strength in his fingers. Surprising strength.
One particular morning I was in his room to get him ready for the day and sure enough, strong-armed. His television was on and I really don’t know if it was a news feature or a regular show. But, I do know this, it was about a family who had adopted multiple children with special needs. We have adoption in our family so just the word made me pause and pay attention. Add in special needs and I thought, I want to hear more. The story that unfolded was moving beyond belief as THREE of the children had no arms. It was inspiring to see how they had worked so hard to overcome such tremendous hardships. Hardships most of us will never know. I am positive it was no accident that I heard that story that morning. And God spoke to me clearly. I was convicted right then and there to be thankful that Jacob has his arms. And can use them as he desires as some of his peers don’t even have that ability. His strength can be an asset that will come in handy through the years.
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet” .
― Helen Keller
When someone handles us roughly, our first response is to fight back.
That is what I mean by being fearful of hurting him. Human nature provides an adrenaline rush to defend ourselves. And yet, that rush shouldn’t be necessary for daily self-care. I really want to just diffuse a situation to redirect him and make sure neither of us gets hurt. He uses what he has to communicate and strong-arming is a language we both understand. Got that loud and clear.