Nobody told me there’d be days like these
Strange days indeed”
So you’re the parent of a child with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or learning disability. When was the last time you gave yourself a break? Acknowledged your courage and persistence? Applauded your patience, kindness, and compassion? Admired your own strength?
If you’re anything like me, I can easily gravitate to the space in my head that flits between judgment and criticism for my parenting mistakes and frustration and exhaustion from all the energy and extra steps required to raise a child with special needs. Especially for a single parent with no family nearby! Oh, I also reside in gratitude and wonder with the gift I have been given; the charge of creating a supportive, loving environment that will allow my children to thrive.
It is good to be grateful and to focus on the positive. I do myself a great disservice, though, if I don’t name and honor the spectrum of feelings surrounding my situation. (spectrum, did you catch that?)
To quote an eBook I recently devoured, The Happy Child Guide: “As parents, many of us are faced with conditions of exhaustion, loneliness and stress. We are
usually the first to be blamed for our child’s faults, and seldom acknowledged for the good.”
I replay the many times I’ve disciplined my son when he was only trying to ease sensory issues within his body and I cringe. I think about all the times I lost my patience with his failure to follow directions when he truly didn’t understand what was being asked of him. Or the times I (sometimes still) am simply exhausted from trying to do it all and I yell. I yell.
We are doing the best we can. Parents, it is OK. Don’t put those scenes on repeat playback. Don’t cringe. Forgive yourself and move forward.
What about the guilt? Do you ever grieve? Do you ever wish the road wasn’t this rocky? Do you ever look at children behaving in a restaurant and suddenly find yourself beating down that little green monster, thinking, “why can’t I have that?” What about vacations? Flying? Going to the movies? Festivals? Do you ever feel deprived or robbed of experiences that at the moment seem impossible for your family? How about the frustration of all the IEP meetings and discussions with the schools?
It’s OK. It doesn’t mean you love your child any less. It doesn’t mean
you are not grateful. It doesn’t mean you are selfish. It doesn’t even mean you wish things were different. We’re human. If we don’t allow these emotions to come to the surface and honor them, we cannot release them. They will fester.
I spend a great deal of time researching and talking about the right kinds of support for our children. Tools, resources, therapies… and I am glad to be able to bring you these things. But I forget perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle. If our bank is empty we having nothing left to give to them. We need support, too.
I would love to hear some of the things you do to honor, celebrate, and support yourself as a parent. And I would personally like to applaud you in your journey. Congratulations. Thank you for being you.