Adoption and Family

Stupid Tears and Being a Special Needs Parent

I’ve become a spectacle. The crazy Mom sitting in the grocery store parking lot crying stupid tears in a minivan. You don’t want to know her. She’s pathetic and cliche. But too many times lately she’s me crying in the parking lot at Sobey’s, No Frills or Food Basics. Look away.


Perhaps you are new here and you don’t know me, but I am not a cryer. In fact crying is something I typically do once or twice a year maybe. Like a thing I allow myself very rarely in controlled situations at home. Nobody needs to see me crying in the parking lot at the grocery store. Or anywhere else for that matter. Truth be told I don’t often understand large emotional outbursts, or the purpose of crying.

I am a doer. I channel my anger into work or into advocating for my kids, both of whom have IEPs (individual education plans). This year, both of my girls have had some social struggles that break my heart. This school year has been one of changing medications and hoping something works better than the last one. And there’s all the teenage hormones on top of that.

It’s never easy, but sometimes you coast blindly, because you are tired or because you just have too many balls in the air. You think it’s all going well and then you get a text, an email, a call from the school. Or maybe from your child and stupid tears well up. At the grocery store, sitting in a meeting, or simply in the middle of the day. Stupid tears. What’s their purpose?

Upset, disappointed, irritated, angry, frustrated, exhausted. Sometimes, it’s all stupid tears. Literally. The older I get the more emotional leakage I have. Often I wonder if we are all like that, or if it’s just me. Maybe it’s all parents of teens. Did my Mom feel this way? I wish I could ask her. Or maybe it’s all special needs parents. Then I wonder why other parents lied so much about parenting. We coast along with our sleepless, helpless babies in an exhausted state thinking it gets so much better.

My oldest daughter has a meme she often quotes: “You sit on a throne of lies.”

That’s this stage right now in a nutshell. Traditional parenting knowledge right now feels like it’s a throne of lies.

Once they are able to walk and talk it will be so much easier. When they can feed themselves life will be so much easier. Or once they are in school everything will be so much better. Well, I am calling it. The truth is there’s nothing easy ever about ANY of the steps along the way. Issues are bigger and more urgent and I always feel I am running out of time to fix them, because if X doesn’t get addressed before she’s 18 then how on earth will she ever cope independently at college or university? HOW?

This current reality is ugly. It’s not Instagram worthy or Facebook Fabulous. It’s a big mess of stupid tears and irritable outbursts and scrambling to plug in more supports, different supports, and doctor’s appointments. And it’s me wondering whether this entire special needs parenting thing has completely kicked both of our butts so hard that both my husband and I will soon need therapy and medication to cope. Never once did I think I would be this irritable. And never once did I think my kids would beg to be homeschooled.


For years I have jokingly dubbed myself keeper of the sanity. Able to find the calm easily in an emergency. Surrounded by anxious people with high maintenance special needs. But right now I am a bit worried about me. The keeper of the sanity is nowhere to be found. She is AWOL.

Don’t know why I check my emails or my texts in the grocery store parking lot anymore. Clearly that needs to stop. This year we’ve had good teachers. Decent supports in school. But still the girls struggle, more than I wish they ever had to and that sucks. The month, when they both had big social issues with their friends, was exquisitely heavy at home. One girl was baffled completely why a small group of friends suddenly had no interest in being her friend any more.

“I eat alone all the time now,” she confided one night.

And then daughter number two burst into inconsolable tears over a friend situation too.

And in fact she said pretty much the same thing. “I eat alone in the resource room.”

Their friends are everything when they are teenagers. As big a deal as family is. In fact maybe bigger. So when cracks appear in that facade, outbursts happen.

When they cry lately over that stuff I cry too. I am not a cryer but here I am crying stupid tears in the stupid Sobey’s parking lot again. Some days it’s hard to force the day to fit any sort of recognizable or manageable shape when it starts with big sloppy emotion.


This week my family had made a clear cut decision about the educational path and high school courses for my younger daughter when someone weighed in a bit late – she’s really struggling with that, they said. That called into question everything yet again. And it potentially invalidated all of the forms I had already filled out, taking hours to document course choices and emergency contact details, photocopying IEPs and report cards and physician reports.

Because I needed more to do and more to stress over and I like to do every application twice. And this morning she’s begging to be homeschooled again. So far we’ve avoided that because I run a business and my cup is full to overflowing every single day. Clearly her anxiety over moving on to high school soon is huge.

Oh there are good things that have happened too, but that’s another post. There are days it’s impossible to see sunshine, rainbows and kittens. Days when gratitude and hope are hiding, when your sitting in your van crying stupid tears wishing life would throw your kids a break.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.