Twelve years ago I gave birth to a special little boy, his name is Zach. Nine years ago I had another special boy and his name is Jude. These two boys were diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD respectively.
Now I’m not gonna tell you it’s been all fun, there have been tears and tantrums, heartbreak even–not just theirs–we’ve all had a cry at one point or another. But I wouldn’t change a single thing about our lives.
These guys make us happy. They make us who we are. And if anything we owe them for driving us and motivating us. Here’s how they make us better people.
1. We Become Healthier
We give up late nights, cigarettes and bad food. Not only do we want to set a good example, but we want to be around for these kids for as long as we can.
For many of us special needs parents there lies a concern around the future and what will happen to the kids when we die. It takes our kids longer to prepare for the adult world and so we need to know that someone responsible will be there for them.
2. We Learn to Be Patient
It takes much longer for our kids to reach milestones. Take Zach for example, his social development is severely delayed. He finds it so difficult to make friends. Other kids need help with speech and language, others with mobility.
We wait and we wait. We prompt, play and comfort. We start each day afresh in the hope that today is the day that our kids will have a breakthrough.
In time it becomes clear that it’s okay when you’re not getting results. We just keep on trying. Acceptance plays a great role here.
3. We Celebrate in Style
When the big day finally comes and our child reaches a milestone–maybe they managed to get up and walk at two years or say their first words at four. We really celebrate with great appreciation.
The relief can’t be quantified every time we have one of these moments. We feel eternally grateful and ever so proud.
4. We Become Selfless
Many of us simply drop everything when we learn that our child has special needs. We feel we have a duty to do everything in our power to help this child to catch up with their peers–or at least to have the best quality of life that’s possible for them.
5. We Value Our Free Time
What little time we have to ourselves we enjoy thoroughly. We don’t take anything for granted. We appreciate meeting our friends, shopping trips, going out for dinner and any other time we can get to ourselves.
These treats happen so infrequently, they are savored to the nth degree.
6. We Develop a Heightened Sense of Humor
The house is in a mess, the kids are fighting again and you are stressed out–you have an assignment due in the morning.
You could cry, that would be acceptable but we know it won’t get us anywhere; if anything the kids will sense our weakness and play up even more.
Instead we just laugh it off. Things don’t seem quite so bad anymore.
7. We Become Fighters
As special needs parents we learn to fight for our children’s rights. These kids are told “No” over and over by authorities, whether it’s regarding places in schools, time in rehabilitation and training, speech therapy–the list goes on.
Parents are up against it when it comes to getting the services their kids are entitled to.
We have no choice but to fight. Sometimes we become unpopular or make enemies but it’s all in the name of love for our kids. They can’t fight for themselves.
8. We Become Resilient
We become accustomed to having doors closed in our faces. Doors that should open and welcome our kids. A world where they can develop and flourish.
We learn to find other ways of getting what we need. We refuse to accept ‘no’ for an answer and we start all over again. This time more determined than before.
9. We Become Less Materialistic
When you find yourself in a constant struggle day in day out you start to realize what’s important in life. We couldn’t care less what make or model our car is or whether our clothes are trendy or not.
None of that stuff matters. All that matters is that we are happy and that our kids are happy.
10.We Develop a Thick Skin
Sometimes our kids are teased at school. Despite our best efforts to put an end to this it can continue. We have to keep going and help our kids to keep going too. It’s the ultimate lesson in developing a thick skin.
I feel blessed that my two little monkeys have taught me all of these valuable lessons. There is no doubt that I am a better person because of Zach and Jude.
Now to get them off those video games ….