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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The Train Ticket

A repost of something I wrote many years ago on another blog, when I was first facing the reality of having a child with undetermined special needs (he was later diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder). It still speaks to me now as I face difficult situations… or emerge from them and wonder how I survived. I think we are stronger than we give ourselves credit for!

One of my favorite authors is Corrie ten Boom. She was a Christian who truly lived by God’s command that we love one another. That was tested by the fact that she also lived in Holland during the time of Nazi occupation. She and her family helped hide Jews in their home and were instrumental in organizing the Haarlem underground that saved the lives of countless people. What an amazing, inspiring woman.  She makes me want to be stronger, to try harder. I wish I could have met her.

In her book, “The Hiding Place”, she tells a story from her youth. While this tale is about strength in the face of death I think it is also applicable on a broader scale.  As a teenager Corrie had witnessed the aftermath of grief after a small baby in her neighborhood had succumbed to illness. It left her young mind feeling deeply upset, confused and afraid. All those feelings tumbled out at the end of the day when her father came to tuck her into bed:

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