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Sho and Patreece Baraka: Parenting Autism–and Dealing with Shame

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
August 11, 2022 2:00 am

Sho and Patreece Baraka: Parenting Autism–and Dealing with Shame

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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August 11, 2022 2:00 am

Parenting their sons' autism, Sho Baraka and his wife Patreece felt blindsided—including a loss of dreams & sense of failure. But God met them in their shame.

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Love is not based on performance, and that no matter how well our disappointing our kids perform, if you will, that doesn't change our affection for our children, because the reality of it is, is that God looks at us, and we don't perform well at times, and we don't do the things that God has called us to do, but yet that doesn't change His affection and His love for us. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. Well, I have a confession to make. Often when we're in the studio, part of me thinks we're the coolest couple in the room. I know I've never thought that once in my entire life.

I mean, I'm obviously lying right now. I've always wanted to think I'm the coolest, but I'm sitting here today thinking, I don't know if we've ever had a cooler couple sitting across from us. I mean, look, he walked in with this jacket. How do you describe it? It's like a cool smoking jacket. It's like crushed velour.

Crushed velour. But I'm guessing he's not smoking the jacket. And his wife? I don't know. He's kind of smoking in the jacket.

Is he? Oh, you better stop. Yeah, we might have to end this interview early.

You know what's going to happen. Anyway, sitting across the table from us here at Family Life Today is Show Baraka and his wife Patrice. And we just, we're excited to have you in Orlando, Florida on Family Life Today.

Excellent. Well, thank you for having us. Thank you for having us. Are you guys glad to be here?

I am. I mean, do you dress up like this for everybody or is it just us? Just you guys. Just you guys. Yes. There you go. There you go.

Just you guys. Yeah, well, we get to talk about a really interesting topic that I'll let you introduce. Tell us a little bit about your family because I think that'll take us on a journey to where we're going to go today.

Yeah. So Patrice, my lovely wife and I have been married 19 years. We have three wonderful children. Zoe, who is our oldest, she's 17.

We have a 15 year old Zakai and a nine year old Zimri. And our two boys are on the autism spectrum. And so oftentimes we get asked to talk about that.

What is that like? Just loving and serving and raising children on the spectrum. I mean, just raising children in itself, obviously, as you guys know, is an obstacle, is a sanctification process in itself along with marriage.

But to raise kids who are on the autism spectrum or have some sort of special need can be a thorn in itself. And so I think we've had some moments of feast and we have some moments of famine. Yes, absolutely. We love the opportunity to have those conversations and talk about it because one thing that we realized is that when we were coming through it, we didn't have a lot of people to pull from. Yeah. And so as much as we can be advocates as we are stumbling in the dark, trying to figure out our ways, like hopefully the things that tripped us up, the couples that come behind us or the parents, the families that come behind us won't have to struggle with some of the same things. Amen. I agree. So talk about a little bit of what you do for a living.

Yeah. Because I bet a lot of people have heard you. Most people may know me or have heard of me because I was or am a performing artist. I started off in my first song I released was probably like 2005, I think, under a label Reach Records or click 116, which some people may know like Lecrae and Tinashe and Tripplea.

And so I started off with them. So music artists, been in a couple films. Couple films? I'm glad I didn't even know.

That's why I'm in the busters. You're married to a movie star. I don't want to say movie star. Just a guy who's been in a couple Christian films. Patrice said blockbusters.

Blockbusters in our house. Okay. Yeah. And I just wrote a book called He Saw That It Was Good that was released last year. Your actual, like your nine of five. Oh, so I work at a church right now. I am a, I guess you could say creative director at a church. Are you going to say that instead of pastor? I like that.

I like that. Because I was going to ask Patrice, what's it like to be married to a pastor? So they treat me like a pastor. I am performing all the roles. That means they don't pay you much? Yeah. I'm performing all the roles of a pastor, but I'm actually a creative director. That's what you go to the website.

It says creative director. Patrice, how did you guys meet? What's your story?

Oh, I always get stuck with a how did you guys meet story. Oh, you do? Mine is more accurate.

His is just more entertaining. Oh. So I'll let him. I'll interject. No, I'll interject. I'll interject. Yes.

We'll do it that way. So we met in college. I was at the University of Montevalo.

So she's already messing up. She was stuck at the towers. You were in a castle.

You were in a castle, a damsel waiting for your Prince Charming. Okay, now finish. I got you.

I see what's happening. This is why I let him. So anyway, we were both in college. He was at Tuskegee and I was at the University of Montevalo. We were both involved in campus outreach.

Yeah. So I was involved on my campus and he was involved on his campus, but I knew his director from going to a summer project a couple of years before. When I got there, our mutual friend, Monte, he was like, hey, I want you to meet the guy that I was telling you about. And so I walked over and he introduced us. He said, I heard you did Monte's album cover or something.

I was like, yeah. He's like, well, then you can do a picture of me. And then she says, if I wanted to, and walked away. And I was like, okay, what kind of friend do you have?

Why is she so rude? That was like one of your first- That's how we met. If I wanted to and walked away. That's how he received it, but that's not how I actually say it. I said those words, but I didn't say it like that.

We have the same situation. When we met, I knew of Dave, but somebody told me he became a Christian. And so I went up to him and I said, you became a Christian? And he says it as- Yeah, he came up to me like, yeah, like you're a Christian. That's what she said. There's no way you're a Christian. They were the same words, but no, I did not say it.

He received them differently. We all know marriage is all about communication. It isn't what you say. It's what's heard. Amen, amen, amen. So, I mean, if that's how it started, how did it progress?

I think the Lord was just forcing the issue because it kept pushing us together. So the first weekend- It was a summer project. So we would have these weekends where we would have to like do group interactions with like 60 students. It was called socials. We did socials with everyone that was involved on Friday. So the social was, you know, going to, I think it was a church. I can't really remember what it was, but they had a basketball court. Earlier that day, it rained and I had already been outside playing basketball. And so the people that I was playing with, we went inside and continued to play.

While we were playing our two-on-two, I hyperextended my right knee, which means it went the entire different direction, and I screamed like a banshee. And anyway, so I came back to the room after going to the hospital and guess who was in charge of making sure I got to where I had to go? Out of everyone on that campus. Wow. The Lord. Everyone on- This is called divine intervention.

That's what this is called. There are 60 people on that campus, not including staff. I don't understand why you're not thanking the Lord right now. That's the confusing part of this story. This guy, out of 60 people, was the one that was placed in charge of making sure I got to where I had to go the next day, our leadership meeting. Because we were both leaders. I had a car.

He did not, but I also had girls in my room that I was responsible for. No, I did have a car, but my car was not reliable. But anyway, you got to speed it up. I'm trying to.

I'm trying to. So anyway, I was waiting on him because I could not drive my car because of my knee. And he was late, and I had to go find my own ride.

No. And so when I found my ride- This is not a shiny moment. I was hobbling down the stairs on my crutches. He was like, oh, you're right. And I told him, and it was definitely with attitude this time, I said, I have my own ride. And I just walked past him and got in the car with another gentleman, and he made sure I got to where I got to go.

That same Saturday, we went evangelizing. He was over it. And I got a chance to see his passion for people when he found out people were not doing what they were supposed to do.

He was very angry and frustrated. And I kind of took a step back and I saw him in a different light because evangelism is a weakness for me. And so to see someone who was very passionate about the lives that we could have impacted when, you know, people weren't doing their job impressed me. So I decided to observe him from a distance without him knowing that I was interested. And I began to understand that there's a character trait in him that I didn't see initially that I respect.

And I ended up going out with him. She saw me braid that whip and run the money charges out the temple. She was like, I think I like this young man. But it was, you guys both saw that passion for Jesus in one another.

Absolutely. So I, you know, I thought she was obnoxious and stuck up, but to her point, I saw the leadership quality in her. She was committed to those young ladies. She was literally washing their feet.

And I was like, who washes people's feet, like for real? And just to see her commitment and her tenacity for those young ladies was so impressive to me because to her point, like there are a lot of people there who didn't have the proper focus. They were going because you got 60 students, attractive, et cetera, et cetera, and you know these people are somewhat serious about their faith. And so potential mates for the future. So when you get married, again, I'm sort of jumping forward a little bit, but no kids yet? We got married in 2003 and we didn't have our first child until 2004.

All right. So was the first year of marriage bliss? I guess. I don't really remember. This is when you just make it up and say, yes, yes, it was amazing.

Well, here's what I'm guessing. When you say, wow, I can hardly even remember, a lot's happened since then. Absolutely.

More than a lot. Which, you know, having kids is one thing. Having kids with special needs adds a whole other dynamic. Well, you had your daughter first.

Yes, we had her first. And so we felt like we knew what a developing child looked like because she did everything she was supposed to do during the timeframe she was supposed to do it. So when our son came along and things were different, like something different about his mannerisms, the things that he was doing were awkward. And I was like, why is he doing that?

And so we were talking with each other. How old was he when you started to notice that? Maybe a year.

Yeah, it was between a year. Yeah, he was flapping a lot. Different kinds of stimulating behaviors.

Like doing his ears a lot. And he was constantly just enamored by things that were repetitive. And I was like, what is happening?

We had no idea what to do. And it was time for his, I think it was 18 month checkup. I can't remember. We brought our concerns to the pediatrician and, you know, apparently there's a list that they have that they check off. Well, is he doing this, this, this?

Because at this point he should be. And out of that list, he may have been doing three or four of the things. And, you know, that's when it became more real to us. Like there's something missing.

Yeah, there's some significant delays, developmental delays here. What did you feel like, Sho, with that? Did that scare you? Yeah, it scared me because, you know, one of the things she didn't communicate is that, you know, he began to start walking on his tippy toes, which was awkward. He would respond to his name before and then he stopped responding to his name.

He did have a couple of words that regressed as well. And so you're like, what in the world is happening? Like, you know, you hear about all the different conspiracy theories or whatever that, you know, orbit around vaccinations and things like that. And so we were speculating on all these different things.

We had no history or regulation of autism within our circles. And I will say this, though, years before we got married and maybe a year into our marriage, I worked at a residential treatment facility. So I had a little experience working with people on the autism spectrum and I would see certain things that they would do.

And I would see my son do those things. And I was like, but it can't be. I was like, no, that's... So there's a little denial.

Absolutely. And then you have the conversations with family members who are like, oh, don't worry about it. He'll be all right.

Your cousin didn't speak till he was 35. So, you know, you're like, OK, I guess that gives me some hope, you know. And no, you just you tried to figure out, I'll say, yeah, whatever lie you can tell yourself to give you comfort. You just you try to live with that. And then you get this disrupting news from the pediatrician and you have to wrestle and reconcile with that information. And it's like revelatory. It's a joke. And you're like, is this our life?

Is this really our life? And then all the insecurities begin to come. You know, what do you mean by that? As a mother, my personal struggle was the fact that it was punishment for how I felt when I found out I was pregnant unexpectedly. Tell us that.

What's that mean? Well, you felt what? We did not plan this child.

Yes. He was quite a surprise. I found out I was pregnant with him as I was applying for another job because I'd just been released from my teaching position. I'd been a teacher at a private school for like three years and they started letting like staff that they hired recently go. And so I had to find another job. And, you know, he was job school in between a bunch of things. And I was I was more stable.

He was working, but it was more consistent with me. And so it became a distressing moment because applying for this new job, I had an opportunity to be an art therapist for abused and neglected children at a residential treatment facility. And the first step is, you know, you're hired, but you need to pass a drug test.

What is the concern about that? So when I went to get my results, so the results there tour facility and she was like, oh, congratulations. And I'm like, what do you mean girl?

I already know I was going to pass the drug test. She's like, no, you're like five weeks pregnant. And I was like, excuse me? She's like, apparently you didn't know that. I was like, um, no, ma'am. I had no idea I was. Wow.

So this is how I found out. I was carrying our second child. And the timing wasn't great. Was not great because, you know, financially we're trying to figure ourselves out. We have a new child.

Zoe may have been 10 months at the time when we found out we were pregnant again. And it just became a strain financially between us communicating. It was just a lot of things that can happen in a new marriage that was happening all at once. And so it damaged how we were feeling about each other between the frustrations and the stress and trying to move forward. I had my concerns of working with abuse, neglected children, because at the time I had to take self-defense training. You're working with traumatized children and things happen. And so now I'm concerned about, you know, my new child, but then I'm also depressed because I'm pregnant and I don't really want to be right now. And so throughout that process, I struggle with the joy of knowing that I was carrying another life. And so you thought, is this my punishment? Absolutely.

Do you guys think that's typical? That's David Ann Wilson with Patrice and Sho Baraka on Family Life Today. We'll hear their response in just a minute. If you've been listening to Family Life Today, you know how important it is to be a family on a mission. We believe that God calls us into community to serve each other with what he's given us. Well, right now, there are two ways you could partner with Family Life to impact lives for his kingdom.

First, you can lead a small group Bible study in your home or your church. Right now, you can get a discount on all leader materials with the code 25OFF, that's 250FF at FamilyLifeToday.com. And second, you could partner with us financially to equip families to move from isolation toward oneness. You could donate securely online at FamilyLifeToday.com. And as our thanks, when you give today, we'll send you a copy of Jenny Allen's book called Find Your People. She was a guest earlier this week. Again, that's FamilyLifeToday.com.

All right, now back to Dave and Anne's conversation with Patrice and Sho Baraka. And if it's common or not for parents of special needs kids to feel like they're being punished. One of the greatest burdens that a lot of, and I'll say even mothers, and I'll speak for mothers, even though obviously I'm not a woman. But as a husband, I think we recognize that women oftentimes carry the shame of bearing children who have some sort of, you know, deficiency, if you will, or some sort of special need. Because that's just the way, you know, women are nurturers and they're connected to their child in a way that a father isn't.

And, you know, she's even communicated that there are ways in which the husband can show empathy and care and help them, like, carry that burden. And I didn't do a good job of that in the early years. But I do think there's a bit of shame that comes with carrying that because I felt it.

So when you had like the insecurities that I had was not necessarily the shame of like, man, it's so selfish. Like, oh, the things that this kid is going to have to deal with. It was more so telling me my boy won't play sports.

You're telling me that I won't be able to like teach him how to, you mean he won't ever go to a prom? You mean, and I'm thinking about all the things that I want to do or live through my son. The death of your dreams.

Yeah, exactly. And I will no longer be able to live out these grand adventures, et cetera, et cetera with this. And so there comes the shame and it's almost like a double shame. This is a shame of not being able to do those things, but also a shameful way of thinking about it. Like, you know, an affliction, if you will. I just call it that in the moment because it's not even compassion for the individual.

It's more so the selfishness that you get to live out. And to skip a little bit further, like you're ashamed to take them in public because depending on the type of behaviors they display, you're like, okay, we're going to go in the store. I hope they just don't act a fool. Please.

He's a fit thrower. You said something that I think a lot of parents might feel when anything goes wrong with their child, whether it be special needs or something tragic happens, I think sometimes as parents we do feel like it's God getting us back through them. You know, my dad was a womanizing guy, pretty much an alcoholic, left my mom with his girlfriend when I was seven, had a little brother, five. My mom and I and my little brother moved to Ohio. That's why we ended up in Ohio because her parents lived there.

She's a single mom. My little brother dies of leukemia within three months. I know my dad carried that probably his whole life. Like, that's God's punishment for my life. You know, he never said that, but I know he felt it.

Like, that's how God got—and it isn't at all. But you just said something like, wow, I felt like—you think that's sort of common? It was absolutely a truth that I believed. And how did you deal with it then? I think it took a very long time.

I don't think I officially dealt with it until after we had our second son. And that was seven years later. Like, it was a battle every time we were in the emergency room with Zaki because he was sickly. You know, he was sick often.

He was jaundiced when he was born. And he was just other things. And I was just like, that's what you get. You should have appreciated the gift. You know, you should have appreciated the gift.

And now this is the outcome of that. And so I just kind of kept it to myself for the most part because I didn't want anyone to know that I felt that way about my child when I found that I was pregnant because I was embarrassed. And it was difficult for me to say that this is my son Zaki and he's autistic because of me.

Or he's not going to have a normal life because of me. Did you even tell Sho? Did you know? No, I don't think—I never communicated with him.

No, she never communicated that, I don't think, until like years and years after. But you're keen to it. You can sense it. Did you feel any of that?

It eats you away. Honestly, I never felt that. Us and our marriage. I never felt like God was punishing us per se. Well, I know he never felt that because he never knew my thoughts when I was pregnant. I never told him. I could never tell my husband. I was like, I don't want this child that we're about to have.

Because how can you say that? There was nothing in me that could make that thought okay. So I never communicated that to him. So I never wanted him to have the opportunity to feel that because I felt like this was something I brought on myself. Yes, an ugly part of us that we don't want our spouse to see.

And that you just carry guilt and shame and then you just bury it. How did it affect your marriage? We did not like each other for a long time. During that period of time, it was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very rough.

And is this because you have a child with special needs or is it bigger than that? I think it was compounded. Yeah, with that and then, like I said, we were struggling financially and we were trying to figure things out. I think identity as a whole, I mean, you were young. I think I was like 22 maybe, maybe 23. Yeah, I was older than him. So somehow she got younger than me as the years passed over. But I think it was just one being, I know I wasn't mature.

I thank God for his grace every day that he kept me in the early years of our marriage. But I think it's that just trying to figure out who you are as an individual. I think trying to work through this being a parent of a kid with special needs. I will say I think we had adequate marriage counseling and we went to a church that would seem fairly healthy. I think now if I can go back, there are much tougher questions that we should have wrestled with. There are things that I should have dealt with, like my sexual past, sexual expectations, communication, anger issues that I never really reconciled with. That I think I brought into the marriage that we knew we were different people from different experiences. And you just pay lip service to that.

It's like, oh no, my parents did this, my parents. Okay, we won't be like our parents. And we love each other so much.

And we love Jesus so much. So, I mean, we're going to make it, right? Yeah.

No. On paper, that seems great. But then when Mike Tyson said, everybody got a plan until you get hit in the mouth. And then we would get hit in the mouth and you revert to those old ways. And then you retreat or you lash out and you forget that the Holy Spirit is in you and so you make some decisions. And so I do think there's a lot of things I think we would tell our young selves. Yeah, I was just going to ask you to say, what would you say to a mom or a dad or a couple listening right now that are feeling like you felt? Like, some of the bad things that happened in my life are God's punishing me. And it might be they have a son or daughter with special needs.

It might be something else. You've learned a lot. You've matured. What would you say? I can only tell them what I'm experiencing now because that's where I have to live in order to, I guess, mentally survive knowing that there is a realistic future for my son.

And that's that my son, both of my sons are gifts. And to not look at it as some form of punishment, but as a different perspective of God that you would not normally get to see. Because not everyone has a certain special need. Most people are normal and we have similar things in common where you like, oh, this is the face. Oh, this is normal.

This is normal. But when you have a child with special needs, they see the world differently. You get to experience a different type of person and we are created in this image. So you can't look at that child and say, this is not a part of God.

They're incomplete in some sort of way. But they're just a different expression of who God is. A different expression of how to love. Like one of the things that I think we've learned in this is that, you know, it's taught us a lot about God's love and how God loves us. Is that love is not based on performance. And that no matter how well our disappointing our kids perform, if you will, that doesn't change our affection for our children. Because the reality of it is, is that God looks at us and we don't perform well at times.

We don't do the things that God has called us to do, but yet that doesn't change his affection and his love for us. And so we just try to figure out, okay, if they're not neurotypical, in what ways do they communicate so that we can connect? And what ways do they love differently? They love without words. I love to communicate that it's like they love without words. And it's a beautiful thing. And so it's taught me, you talked about this yesterday, about how it's taught you how to be compassionate towards people.

Oh, absolutely. I'm sure we've all had that moment before we knew someone who had a special needs child that would judge that parent for letting their child run crazy and scream in the store. It's like, why did you get your child under control?

Right, right. Like you need, that child needs discipline. You have no clue what that mother's resting, what the child, like you have no idea. I've seen that before, since I've had my own children and my own experience of being that mother, that I had to leave baskets full of groceries in the store because, you know, my son is flipping out. I have had a moment where I've gone up to a mother that was having a hard time and just asking her, you know, how can I help you? Like, do you need me to put the groceries on the thing?

Like, I'll even pay for them if you need to be with your child. Because in the past, I would have judged her. It's only happened once, but I'd like to think that moment of compassion that I showed her made a difference in her life at that moment, which is probably all she needed was a moment.

So you've learned to give grace without judging, which we all need to learn. You've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Patrice and Sho Baraka on Family Life today. Tomorrow, they'll continue the conversation as Sho and Patrice get honest about when they were genuinely dreading the fact that they were going to have a third kid.

What did that mean for their faith? They'll talk about that tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-12 11:45:33 / 2023-01-12 11:58:12 / 13

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