“Special needs parents are the equivalent of Batman, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk; combined with a side of Mary Poppins.” -Author Unknown
When my youngest child was born three years ago I suddenly entered the world of special needs parenting. His infancy and toddler years have certainly proven to be much different than those of my older two. There is no handbook and this journey can be very challenging to navigate. We spend much of our time at therapies and medical appointments and it is easy to lose sight of his childhood innocence. My son is easily the family favorite and brings incredible JOY to everyone he meets! I’m still learning as I go but have certainly picked up on some things that might be helpful to others.
1. Trust your gut. You are your child’s best advocate. The good Lord carefully chose YOU to be his/her mama and you know your child better than anyone! Although you are likely not a medical expert, you have certainly gained an immeasurable amount of knowledge in a short amount of time. If you think something is wrong, have it checked out. It’s also okay to respectfully disagree with a specialist or to request a second opinion.
2. People are going to stare and say stupid things. Do not let it offend you! Always offer grace and assume they mean well. People are closely watching how you handle these situations and it just may be a great opportunity to educate others.
3. You can do it! Even when it seems truly impossible. Even when there seems to be no way to sugar coat the news. Believe that you can handle whatever lies ahead. One day you might think you have it all together and the next you might feel as though nothing makes sense. Rest assured that God is good and has every detail orchestrated.
4. Your child is worth it. Worth all of the time you spend on the phone with the insurance company, worth all the tears shed and worth all the hard days. Your child will bring laughter, love and happiness to your family 🙂
5. Some days will be down right ugly. You might receive an unexpected scary medical report. You might feel out of control and clueless. Fortunately God’s mercies are new each and every morning.
6. Rejoice with each milestone – big or small! Don’t become discouraged or stress yourself with developmental expectations. Your child is on his/her own terms and will accomplish tasks in their own time. Refrain from comparing your child to any other one on the planet!
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life can become very complicated very quickly! Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Prioritize your ‘to do’ list and learn how to say “no” in an attempt to simplify.
8. Explore local resources and seek out experiences. Determine what therapies and activities will aid in your child’s development and progress, and include these in their weekly regimen. Think outside the box and get creative!
9. Know how to tame your “Mama bear” instincts. I know this is much easier said that done! When your blood is boiling and you don’t like the way your baby is being treated, take a deep breath and count to ten. Refrain from potentially embarrassing yourself or your child. Don’t burn bridges!
10. Take time for yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant! Grab coffee with a friend, pamper yourself with a pedicure or find a quiet spot to read a book. It is important to reenergize your mind, soul and body so that you can continue to pour into others.
Remember, the way you act and speak now will most definitely be reflected in how your child acts and thinks of themselves and their circumstances later in life. Their self esteem, drive to keep moving forward and the way they treat others will likely stem from what they have seen and heard.