Maybe your child has curly hair, or is slightly unique in some other tiny way. Small genetic blessings that somehow will turn to a source of pride. Over time. Maybe you think that parenting is hard, but your hard is a moment. Your hard is a glass of wine, some retail therapy, girl’s night out, and then you move on. Your hard breaks.
There’s nothing heartbreakingly extraordinary that impacts the way your child moves throughout their Mondays, or Fridays – the way they approach their school day, year to year. Just a kid, potentially a great kid, maybe even an A student, going about their life sometimes trying new and fun things, succeeding, sometimes failing…moving on, growing. Just a kid. No labels, letters, or scars.
Somewhere in an alternate universe not so far from you people wake up wondering if there’s anyone who will do anything kind today. They wonder if the transit bus equipped for wheelchairs will show up on time, or at all? They, we actually, wonder, not if, but who, will drop the ball this morning. There are Moms and Dads, some special needs parents, who wake up anticipating every day that someone will fail their child. I know too many of these parents. They are my friends. In real life and on line. Moms and Dads parenting kids whose needs are not met at school, whose friends are few and far between. Same children that sigh before school, or hide, or yell, knowing what to expect when they leave their safe house. Same children who go anyways, often to the schools your kids attend too. Some will get by trying to be invisible all day. A few have what they need, but many won’t.
Believe it or not there are some people who wake up expecting others not to be truthful or helpful, or honest, or kind. They drag themselves out of bed and move through the motions hoping nobody gives up, snaps, leaves school for good, or tries to quit at life. Entirely. Today. Maybe you see one at the gym and you wave. Maybe you think how lucky she gets to go to the gym in the middle of her work day. Must be nice. Necessity looks like this. A Mom racing into yoga late at lunch thinking who takes care of the kids when I am gone?
You can’t begin to know that when we pray, if we still do, we ask please just let them make it safely through to 18 or 19. We pray for strength to keep fighting until she is here. Then here. Maybe here. Slightly shifting goal posts all the time. We put feet on the floor picturing getting through just one day so often, that we can’t plan beyond tomorrow. One day at a time damages your eyesight so that you fail to see sucker punches coming.
Kids are resilient, you say. Sometimes that’s true for colds and flu bugs. Bullies, anxious thoughts, depression, neglect, chronic under servicing, misdiagnosis and a scarcity of compassion – much harder to bounce back from. These are the things that wear us all so thin we can barely recognize ourselves in the mirror anymore.
Jasmine pulls her hair out in clumps because her medication doesn’t work hard enough to help in math where fractions might as well be Greek. Sarah broke a bit when she, the only child with a disability, was also the only child cut from tryouts for basketball. The only thing she’s ever tried out for. Andrew comes home and slams his door and refuses to leave his room after school everyday. Becca eats all the time because birthparents couldn’t or didn’t feed her. Or she’s anxious? Or her stomach never registers full. Or it’s a compulsion. Jane hollers weird phrases out the window at quarter past each hour. If she does that the house won’t burn down. Broken thinking. Different thinking. Jack can’t get into a carseat without screaming because his parents used to leave him there for hours when they went out? Do you know? Do you care?
Did you know we dread field trips because they disrupt everyone’s limited ability to cope? Did you know that we cry a lot quietly, sometimes hiding in the bathroom or the closet? Do you know us?
Somewhere nearby there’s a different house with a different child. Maybe someone is struggling. Maybe someone is crying. Maybe they will be okay without any help or support or understanding from anyone else. Maybe. Maybe they’d really love a kind word, or a simple helpful gesture. Without a doubt, most certainly, special needs parents would love to have coffee or tea with someone who doesn’t lie. A hand squeeze, a hug. A dinner, a glass of wine, a shoulder or an ear…It’s possible that one thing could keep them going through the next crisis.