6 Things Special Needs Parents Are Thinking But Will Not Tell You
By: Kelli J Gavin
The other day, I found myself biting my tongue. I smiled at my two friends and listened intently, but knew that if I said anything, I would either hurt their feelings or sound snarky. As the mom of a special needs son, I find myself in situations with others that really make me flex my “tongue-biting” muscles. I hear what is spoken, and observe that there are words left unsaid. I also know that there are many things that I am thinking, but will not tell you.
1) When my son is having a hard time in a public setting, please refrain from telling stories about your child when they also had a hard time. Sometimes it takes every ounce of my being to focus on my son, his behaviors, his triggers, his potential to flee, and the need to help restore calm. I fully understand that you are trying to make me feel better by relating to me and by letting me know that all kids sometimes struggle. Ask me how you can help. Watch my daughter, take my purse, hold my coffee and walk ahead. Your great attitude helps motivate me towards finding behavioral solutions.
2) I can not thank you enough for your friendship. I know it is hard work to be friends with me. Thank you for being understanding and enabling me to always host at my house. My sons behavior at home is much more predictable and manageable. Thank you for rejoicing and brainstorming with me, for listening to me and for just letting me cry sometimes.Thank you for being you. I treasure having you in my life. Thank you for your hugs and your smiles that inspire and encourage me.
3) No, I will never tire of my 13 year old son talking about Blues’ Clues , drawing Dora’s adventure maps or singing Wiggles songs. I know it is repetitive, I know you can only take so much. But please encourage him, smile at him, love on him. This is his way of having what he believes is a conversation with you. He wants you to enjoy the things that he loves. I may never have to struggle with things such as teen dating, social media use or teenage rebellion. But I do struggle with getting my son to eat real food, helping him understand his large almost six foot frame and establishing positive social interactions. If you will excuse me, it is time to watch Elmo’s World.
4) Keep inviting me. Ask me to your home parties. Ask me to ladies night out. Ask me to no kids coffee mornings. I know I often say no or can’t find a sitter. But please, keep asking me. I love being included. I enjoy our friendship and the fact that you are so kind and know that I will be there if I can. I love that you don’t judge me in the process. Thank you for understanding that I can’t always answer the phone and that texting is probably the best way to reach me.
5) My tears are often not tears of sadness. I am a crier. My tears are tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of release. I am a mom, caretaker and the organizer just like you! I often work so hard at making each day a success, that I am exhausted by the details. I am tired. I have even found that I will cry at the satisfaction of day well lived. My tears are not tears to be wiped away. But tears to be acknowledged and experienced and enjoyed.
6) Please continue to share with me about your child's accomplishments. I love hearing about academic achievements and success in sports. I love you and your children. And I take joy in their amazing lives as they grow and mature into terrific human beings. No, I don’t have these same stories to share with you. But I want to be involved in your life. I want to know about your joys, your heartache, your struggles and your success. I want to live life with you and enjoy each moment. Share your life with me.
As I strive to have open, honest and authentic friendships, I need to start talking about these things rather than just thinking about them. I want to welcome questions and kind gestures, rather than thinking about motivations and hidden significance. I want to be an involved and caring friend. Not just the parent of a neurodivergent child. I want to be that special needs parent that encourages, inspires and shares openly. Today, I will take my first step in making that change.
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