November is the month of “Gratitude” for many in the United States. We sit around a table with family and friends, and we reflect and celebrate the gratitude and thanks we feel for our lives. Our social media feeds fill up with “30 days of Thanks” posted by friends and family. People all over are finding ways to be thankful for their lives. In the world of Special Needs Parenting, it can be incredibly challenging to find reasons to be grateful. Our children are often on the fringe of society, the mainstream ignores our families, and we have to fight for our children to get services, therapy, and medical care. We see published articles about the woes of parenting children with special needs, and I have posted more than a few of the hardships we face:
There is no doubt that the world of Special Needs Parenting has its share of pain and suffering, but there is also a hidden feature that many of us rarely discuss. Parenting Children with disabilities gives the parent the opportunity to change their framework and worldview completely. We can look at things we never noticed before and see things in a new light. Our hearts are filled with successes we never thought possible, and we find ourselves enveloped in a community of other moms that are there to cheer us on.
We asked Moms in the Special Needs Community “What are you most grateful for in being a special needs mom?” The answers were thought-provoking and insightful, and it’s easy to see that even in the darkest storm there is a light that surrounds our hearts.
- Patience – When you parent a child with special needs, life has a way of slowing down. Our children don’t always reach milestones at the same time, and we often deal with a lot of adversity regarding the care of our children. Having a child with special needs help most of us foster a sense of patience we never thought possible. We have to learn to accept that our children will get where they need to go in their own time. By slowing down and watching our children take their time, we see the world in its glory. Our ability to manage challenging behaviors, developmental delays, and medical emergencies increase with each therapy appointment we attend.
- Advocacy – Most of us didn’t possess the skills on how to fight and demand care or treatment for our children before they were born. When you are thrust into the world, you are forced to become an advocate. You realize pretty quickly just how much the world isn’t designed for your child. Nothing is ever easy for our children. We fight for education rights, medical treatment, to reach milestones, and to find the resources to manage their long-term care. Many of our children are non-verbal or have communication disorders, and we have to learn to become their voice. By learning and mastering advocacy, we begin to increase our self-esteem and knowledge of the world around us. We can become mentors to other parents we meet, and we are given the unique opportunity to change the world for our children and future generations.
- Community – When you enter the world of special needs, many of us feel like outsiders in a foreign land. We are unable to understand the language, the equipment, the care, and the resources needed to help our children. Most of us feel ill-equipped to navigate the world and have a hard time figuring out where to go. In these strange and dark times, we find our fantastic community. The Special needs world is filled with amazing mothers that are working hard to help their children. Our sisters in parenting link arms with us, they teach us about resources, equipment, medical care, and the educational rights of our children. They cheer us on in our most desperate times and are there to listen to us when we are struggling. The community of special needs moms is a tribe that is inclusive, accepting, and willing to help one another succeed. This tribe is by far one of the reasons most of us are grateful to be here.
- Perspective – When you are raising a child with a developmental delay, syndrome, or medical complexity you learn very quickly not to take anything for granted. For most of our children, nothing comes easy. We have to fight for milestones, for health, and for our children to learn. While some parents are bragging about how advanced their children are, we are sitting by applauding our children for taking their first steps at age 2, saying their first words at 4, and learning to ride a bike at 10. What most of us learn is that there are no givens for our children and we can’t take anything for granted. You bet we are jumping up and down when our kids try a new food, kick a ball, or say hi to a stranger. Everything our children accomplish is worth celebration even if it comes much later for them.
- Acceptance – Before we had our children with special needs, many of us had views about disability that were radically different. This was not because we were judgemental, but it was because we were ignorant. Ignorance about the world around you gives you a narrow view of the world. When we became parents of children with disabilities, we entered a world that is pushed to the fringe of society. We are forced to deal with discrimination, bullying, and ignorance of others around us on a daily basis. Our children become targets for bullies in schools, and they are often the most vulnerable population in our society. We learn very quickly to be the best parent we have to learn to accept all people. Many of us become more open-minded and willing to take all humans for who they are despite their limitations. Conversely, we find a new appreciation for other populations that are forgotten, cast aside, and abused by our society. This acceptance and change of our worldview enable us to fight for the rights of our children.
- Our Kids – The reason all of us are here is because we are parents to children with special needs. We are here because we love and adore our children. When we wake up every single day, we are reminded how lucky we are to be their parent. Their lives give us purpose, make us smile, and fill our hearts with joy and happiness. They are the reason we keep going on the darkest days. When everything around us feels hopeless, it is the love we have for our children that gives us the strength to keep fighting. Our love and hope for them to have a meaningful future are what drives us to be the best we can be. We are marveled at our strength, but we know the real power is found in the hearts of our kids. Each day we see them beat odds, reach a milestone, and exceed expectations that experts put before them. Our children are the real heroes of this story.
When you entered this world of special needs parenting, you had no idea what to expect. The most significant gifts in this journey are that your child has changed you into a better person. On our most desperate days, we struggle to remember why we are grateful. The reason we are thankful is that we have patience, acceptance, advocacy, perspective, community, and our amazing kids. Hold tight to that gratitude as you navigate the rest of the year. We challenge all of you to find something to be grateful for each day.
You Got this, mommas!
You Got this!