It’s Not Always Forward – mothering a regressive child

Regression happens. Eight years post diagnosis, I have lost track of how many times it has happened. I know this is just the nature of things.


We were getting used to things being easier, not so intense, not so destructive, not so rigid. We began to relax, to exhale, to forget.

We also began to schedule more, take on more daily requirements, travel, eat less strictly – because we were doing so well. Maybe we got a little too ambitious. Maybe we forgot a little too easily.

It was almost imperceptible at first – a minor irritation over the schedule not being just so, small noises suddenly being an issue again, a meltdown always simmering there, under the surface.

Now, it’s obvious.

How could I forget? It’s not always forward.

I am fighting feelings of fear. The stress and the chaos, the damage and the pain – the boy I love so much struggling so much.

I have spent a lot of time the past few weeks bouncing back and forth between denial, anger, and waves of depression. Because, you know, there are stages of grief, and this is grievous.

More than that, I have spent a lot of time wishing it was different. Or worse yet, thinking that it needs to be fixed, needs to get better, needs to be changed, before we can live again.

It’s Not Always Forward 

It’s one of the greatest lies of motherhood – that my children are somehow supposed to be linear.

The developmental milestones.

The grade-level evaluations.

The social expectations of a nine-year-old vs. a twelve-year-old.

The expected reactions to medications and therapies.

The entire world tells me it’s supposed to be forward.

But it’s not always forward. Sometimes, it’s like we are moving in a circle. Sometimes, it’s like we are sitting down in the middle of the road, catching our breath. Sometimes, we are struggling not to run backwards to the comfort of how it was or at least, how we thought it would be.

It’s the very nature of a regressive child.

“How we live our days, of course, is how we live our lives.” – Annie Dillard

Every time I read this quote, I tear up, not only because I am exhausted, emotional and a little crazy, but because I know how much I struggle to live like it.

These moments, even the ugly ones, are all blending together to create the tapestry of our lives. They ultimately will make up my boys’ childhoods. They ultimately will make up my motherhood. I don’t want to wish them away. I don’t want to resent them. I don’t want to sigh and moan and groan and think that I am somehow getting a raw deal.

My life is nothing but a vast collection of all these swirling, slippery moments.

Mothering a Regressive Child

I may not always understand, but I pray for the faith to lean into it. God has shown me over and over again that He is in our midst. He gently, lovingly assures me that it’s not about moving forward. It has never been.

I don’t want my first thought each morning to be, “I can’t do this again.” I know better. I know that playing it all out and expecting the worst never serves me or my family well.

I pray for grace to remember that the real beauty, the real grace, the real living happens only in the day-to-day, right now.

I pray I remember that forward in the kingdom so often looks backward. The least is the greatest. The servant is the master. Death brings life.

Forward is overrated.




Similar Posts


    1. Thanks Melody. Hope you guys are well!

  1. Beautiful insights as always, Shawna. So glad your boys have you as their mother. And all of this sounds like you’re on a spiritual fast-track forward, being transformed to look more like Jesus on every one of these hard days. One day there will be no more struggles. Blessings to you.

    1. Thank you so much, Kristi. I love your heart to encourage. You made my morning!

  2. Right there with you and this is so hard – grieving again and again sucks!

  3. Teresa Engle says:

    Oh my heart, you speak the truth. Almost 23 years of hoping to move fwd, things to get better….I know God has a plan and a purpose for all of this but some days its so heartbreaking.

  4. Thanks for this. We are living in regression right now. And, of course, I should have seen it coming. Summer happens every year and the changes and challenges overwhelm them. Every. Single. Time. Why do I get surprised every single time?

  5. How do you do it? You somehow share exactly what my weary heart needs. The fear, chaos, layer upon layer upon layer of grief, the life I keep expecting and then realizing isn’t meant to be ours, the depression and anger. The “I can’t do this another day” and the passing of each hour of each day in survival mode waiting for bedtime instead of really LIVING! And realizing that this is it. This is his childhood, so waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel that may not come is wasting his childhood and years of my life.
    And the regression!!! The worst is when I don’t know what’s causing it. When my mind can’t make sense of it and therefore can’t believe the illusion of control. Lack of control is scary. And sad. And infuriating.
    We are in the midst of realizing we need a bigger, stronger net. We need more resources to help bc this isn’t going away. So here in this place of another massive and heavy layer of grief, your words are literally like a big deep breath. Thank you for sharing the raw and true and vulnerable. Bless you and your dear ones and your aching and STRONG and resilient mama heart.

Comments are closed.