Before Olivia came along, I was that parent. You know the one. The one who looked at other special needs parents and thought, “I don’t know how you do it”. The one who gave the “look”. You know which one I’m talking about. The “I’m so sorry for you” look.
(Ugh…how I despise that look)
The one who admired the amount of patience you had. How you so graciously answered questions about your child, never showing an ounce of frustration for answering this particular question the one millionth time for probably the one millionth person that stopped you to ask it.
The one who felt embarrassed for you in the restaurant, when your child yelled and created a scene while you were trying to have dinner together as a family.
The one who never thought she would be venturing along the same journey as you.
Hi, how the hell are ya?
So this is what it’s like to be a parent to a child with special needs….
Why did I pity you?
How come I was blind to see the joy you were experiencing?
How did I miss the beauty and sparkle in your child’s eye?
Why did I consider your life to be burdened?
I am so sorry.
How ignorant I was. We are conditioned often to view from the outside looking in that we miss the beauty of which surrounds it.
Becoming a parent to a child with special needs is like adding color to a life that was in black and white. Olivia breathed a breath of life into ours, different from that we had known. Through her eyes we have learned to focus on the importance of hope, love, patience and kindness. I discovered a strength I didn’t know I had, and a will to fight at all costs.
I see “those” parents now.
I feel the stares our family receives when we walk into a restaurant. When I make eye contact, their eyes nervously try to look somewhere else.
I get the questions now too. I’m gracious and pleasant as long as the individual asking is respectful and courteous. I believe if stigma surrounding special needs is to change, it’ll be us parents changing it by spreading awareness and advocating for our kids.
To all the rest of “those” parents from one parent who used to be one of you, forget whatever you thought you knew about special needs parents. You are wrong about us! We have the family we always wanted and would never change it in a million years. Our kids are not burdens, they are our love, our lives, our joy. We may have days in which we look tired, burnt out and downright flattened; these days tend to appear after a battle we have had to fight in a world that doesn’t make it easy for our children to be accepted; so forgive us if we come across agitated or anxious. We need support and sometimes a shoulder to lean, but remember we pride ourselves of standing on our own two feet; we don’t need your pity, just an ounce of compassion.