Last week my four-year-old son had a meltdown at school pick-up.
It was not an epic meltdown by any means — especially not for a child on the Autism spectrum.
So, what was it that caused my cheeks to flush and my heart to hurt?
It was the way the other parents and grandparents standing around us reacted.
It was their stares and the unwelcome not so quiet whispers. You see, just because they thought they were whispering didn’t mean I couldn’t hear them. And just because they thought they were avoiding my eyes didn’t mean that I didn’t see or feel the stares or the judgment.
Parenting is hard, friends. Parenting is challenging on the best of days. Parenting a child with special needs, however, adds a whole other layer to it. Some things that are universal to motherhood sometimes weigh heavier on the special needs mama’s heart. There are times where we need extra grace, acceptance, inclusion, and understanding for all the things that are visible outwardly and the things held within.
We all need it. We all should give it. All of us are out here deep in the trenches of motherhood doing our absolute best. It is easy to observe someone else’s life and make a judgment not even knowing their journey.
Shoot. Before I had kids I was the perfect parent with the most perfect and well-behaved children. I mean, these kids were going to be the best-behaved kids to ever walk this Earth.
Flash forward to reality. It is not always pretty. It isn’t even close to perfect.
My mama style may not match yours. My children and their challenges may be very different from yours. Remember that, before you roll your eyes and mutter something about how I should be better at disciplining my child.
Acceptance and Inclusion
We all want to feel accepted and included- you, me, my kids, your kids, the lady down the block– ALL OF US. It is pretty difficult to feel that acceptance when you don’t feel included.
To include someone wholly, you have to first accept them as they are. For example, your child may jump and clap when they are happy or excited whereas mine might flap his hands and spin. Both are different, but perfectly fine reactions, and showing your children that it isn’t weird or strange helps towards acceptance. It is a very simplistic example, but simple things can go a long way.
As a mom with special needs children, I fight and advocate daily for acceptance and inclusion for my boys. It is a battle that never ends.
Yes, I understand we all fight for our kids, but it is a different beast altogether when it involves someone who is differently-abled. I take up these battles for my children on multiple fronts every single day.
There are IEP Meetings at schools to sit through to advocate and push for the support that our children need to have an equal education to their peers. These accommodations we fight for are mistakenly viewed as “extras.” In reality, they are what is needed for my child to receive a BASIC education– not gifted, not extra, but basic.
There is the fight for therapies, funding, and resources. The needs never end and there are never enough of these things to go around.
There are the neighborhood kids that lack understanding of being different. I have cried for my boys when I’ve heard a neighbor child call them names and make fun of them for simply being who they are.
Kindness and love are universal, Friends. No one should have to have access to someone else’s full story just to be a good human to them. It costs nothing to be kind or include someone in playground games.
We mamas want to feel loved and accepted too.
The life of a special needs mom can be isolating. There are challenges to feel connected to others who don’t entirely understand our daily struggles. I wish I could explain nights that I lay awake at 3 am with my mind going non-stop with worries. I wish it was easy to verbalize the anguish there is in simply breathing life to these worries by saying them aloud.
There is a constant battle between feeling like I’m not doing enough for my boys and praying that I’ve done everything I can do to make things easy as possible. Those worries are also sandwiched between whether or not I am shortchanging my daughters.
My girls are typically developing children. In parenting them, I understand what some of my friends deal with in regards to their children. I feel more often than not like no one quite gets where I am at in my motherhood journey. It’s hard. I often feel I am not truly seen or accepted or included in friend groups.
I feel like a lot of life’s great misunderstandings can be resolved if we all take a step back and try to put ourselves in the shoes of others. I try my hardest to see life through other angles. I truly grasp and understand that I may not know everything someone else is battling and vice versa.
I think back to that moment outside of school.
I wanted to yell that my child was not giving me a hard time, but he was having a hard time. I wanted to scream at the woman behind me (the one who thought she could handle my son better than me) that my child has Autism. He isn’t bad.
But, even if I had, would she have understood?
I hope so. I do.
If not, I would be happy to spread awareness and a dash of education. Once upon a time, I wasn’t a special needs mama. Once upon a time, I didn’t know the things I do now and I understand that not everyone else knows the things that I do.
Next time you see a mama struggling, whether you know her or not, whatever the circumstances, instead of judgment, catch her eye and offer some solidarity.
Remember, friends, the journey of motherhood is universal. We can all use a little grace, acceptance, inclusion, and understanding.