Being a special needs parent is hard. Being a parent to multiple children with additional needs is tough. Parenting when you have disability of your own is difficult. There is no doubt about it. Every day has multiple challenges. This is in no way an attempt to sugar coat that. With that being said, not every moment is bad. Not every moment is hard. I wouldn’t even say the majority of them are hard. There are many moments that are just like every other family’s moments. There are happy moments. There are funny moments. There a proud moments. There are even heart pounding moments of pure exhilaration. There is a bright side. And you can choose to be caught up in the hard, or you can choose to look at the bright side. It is all a matter of perspective.
My daughter is part of our local Special Olympics chapter. The first sports she completed in were Track & Field. All of our local family showed up to watch the meet. The first event she competed in was the 50 meter sprint. She was ready. She had practiced. The gun went off, and she took off. She ran her heart out. When she crossed the finish line the grin on her face was larger than any runner ever (in my humble opinion). Someone asked her what place she got. She had no idea (it wasn’t first). She was just tickled pink to be there running. She then turned around, and we all watched and cheered for the last runner to cross the finish line. Several minutes after everyone else. And you know what? This athlete had the same grin as my girl.
My son has ADHD which is quite severe. As is the case with many kids his age, he has exceptional intelligence. As a toddler he was an always moving, extremely inquisitive, non sleeping whirlwind. For example, we were staying at my dad’s house to be close to my daughter who was in the hospital. It was my husband’s turn to watch my son while I was at the hospital. He had taken his eyes off of Eric for 2 minutes to use the rest room. Eric, who was about 2, decided to hold down the button on the water cooler to see what would happen if he emptied the entire jug on the floor. He wanted to know if it was enough water to swim in. It wasn’t. It did, however, make quite a mess. The next day, when I was watching him, he decided to put his face under the spout because he wanted a drink, and he wanted to know if he could drink it as fast as it came out. He couldn’t. Both of these moments could have been frustrating and annoying, and they were, but they were also down right hilarious.
Some of my proudest moments as parent have nothing to do with grades, awards, or achievements. The have to do with my children’s compassion and heart. They have known for their whole lives that their mom is different than other moms. I cannot run and chase my children. I cannot go sledding or skiing or hiking. They could be resentful. But they have never expressed that at all. My daughter automatically holds out her arm to help me walk across snow and ice. My son often opens doors for me. Neither of them will let me carry a bag when they are around. I don’t have to ask, they just step up. They have learned kindness and compassion from having a parent with a disability that I don’t believe they could learn in any other way.
A household where 3 out of the 4 members have additional needs probably has more than it’s fair share of challenges. Many moments can only be described as downright hard. It can be easy to get caught up in that get down and depressed about how hard your life is. But difficult moments are just that. Moments. They do not make up the whole story. They aren’t even the majority of the story. There are so many amazing, exciting, funny, happy and proud moments. Millions of them. And each of us has to decide which moments we’re going to focus on. Which moments are going to make up the highlights of our story. For my family, we try our very best to choose our perspective..