20 Things that Parenting a Child with Special-Needs has Taught me About Life in General

 

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I am married, have two children, and I’m still growing. Each day provides opportunities for education about my inner self, about relationships, and about life. Many of these lessons were learned when my youngest son, who is autistic, was very little. I love and respect my son, and wanted to do whatever I could to support him and help him to thrive. As the result of our journey, and meeting other parents along the way, I slowly began to develop some guiding principles that still I try to remember when I find myself in difficult situations. I TRY to remember, anyway. I may have learned these things, but that doesn’t mean I have mastered them. I am still a work in progress. Here is my list so far of things that parenting a child with special needs has taught me about life in general:

  1. Beauty can be found in unexpected places. This first one may sound trite, but is an essential truth I cling to. Life can present us with struggles, yet it is in the midst of darkness that we truly appreciate the light. During our journey I have learned about strength, love, perseverance, and forgiveness. I have also met some amazing people along the way.
  1. Embrace what makes life unique. The world is full of opportunities for adventure. It is also populated by a gloriously diverse people who have a lot to teach us, and deserve our respect and acceptance. Different is AWESOME, and can provide a refreshing new perspective on things. In my house we call it “Not Boring.”
  1. Parenting can be hard sometimes. Special-needs or not, it can be exhausting to have another human being be dependent on you for all their needs. That doesn’t mean that our children are a burden, because we LOVE them. However, full schedules, perpetual problem-solving, and things like constant medical concerns can make us weary.
  1. Ask for what you need. The people in our life don’t always know how best to help us. They may also assume we don’t need anything if we don’t ask, so speak up. Sometimes we require assistance to get through. It’s not selfish or weak to ask for help.
  1. There will be periods in our life where it feels like we take more than we give. This can be especially hard for caregivers to accept. Remember that our worth is not defined solely by what we do for others. There will be other times in your life when you will be in a position to help someone else who is in need. The scales are never balanced.
  1. You are stronger than you think. “I don’t know how you do it,” I have heard people say. We just do what we have to. I think we often underestimate our own abilities and don’t realize how strong we are until given an opportunity to flex our muscles. I am immensely impressed by the strength and resilience displayed by my son, and some of the obstacles that he has overcome. The power of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me, and adversity can teach us and help us to grow. But it is important to remember this next one…

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Life Continues

Yesterday I lost an older, beloved family member who had been ill for some time. Even though I said my goodbyes to her a long time ago I still found the reality of the loss quite difficult. This morning it finally hit me, and I found myself immobilized in the car at my children’s school, finally letting the tears flow.

Then I came home and viewed this with fresh eyes and my spirit was renewed.

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There is something inspiring about seeing new life emerge out of the earth every spring. It is also deeply satisfying when it is life that you placed into the soil with your own hands. The amazing part is that, after my initial efforts, this growth continues on year after year without needing my help. Life wins.

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This reflection left me encouraged that all our efforts for good will continue to bloom and grow and add beauty to this world, even after we are gone.

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Not only that, but it can spread. All the plants and flowers in these pictures are from the garden of a friend (and there are many more not pictured). Many years ago she graciously shared with me from the abundance of growth in her life, and every spring I smile and think of her.

Now my own garden overflows and these plants are ready to be divided and shared. I can continue to pass on her gift to others.

So today as I gaze upon this growth I will remember… though the body of my loved one has stilled, what they contributed to this world will remain. The lessons she taught me and the kindness she showed to others will continue to beat fruit.

Beauty, kindness and memories continue on. Life wins.

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