May 25, 2017
I want to attempt an explanation on why special needs parents feel blessed and grateful they were given their child. It must be virtually impossible to understand, for someone not in our shoes. But here goes.
I’ve had the occasional person make comments about seeing me motivated to find new skills, since having Parker. They comment that I seem to have “found my calling.” But in reality, the truth is that parents of a child with special needs are all in the same boat. We no longer have time to waste. We cut out anything superfluous we are able to.
I gave up Normal. I replaced it with anything and everything meaningful I deem truly important. And drew it all in close to treasure dearly. Changes and moments in life previously considered earth-shattering, now seem insignificant to a father who has watched his son recover from open-heart surgery. Or a mother who has had her child turn blue in her arms waiting for an ambulance.
I haven’t found new skills. They were always there, and I wrote in private. I blogged anonymously. I wrote draft articles and stories and deleted them. It felt awkward considering making any part of my private life public. But I now utilize resources and work on things I previously would not have dreamed of doing, because I am not afraid to do so any more. There is more at stake than my precious ego, or an uncomfortable interaction or comment. The way my son is perceived by his world will be the most important thing in his life. His world will help form and shape his own opinions of himself when I am no longer here daily to help guide his inner voice. I can deal with comments and uncomfortable interactions. After all, I have to role model the behaviour I expect of him.
There is a quote in the community sector I learned long ago – “People are always the most open to change, in a crisis.” When you start living your life in a series of small battles, wars, victories, breakdowns and living with daily emotions previously only reserved for births, weddings and the odd occasion at home, those pivotal moments when you appreciate how lucky and blessed you are, become your new normal. They are a daily occurrence and, as a parent of a child with additional needs, we are given a heightened ability to reflect on that in these mini ‘war zones’ we can so regularly be exposed to.
So, when a special needs parent says to you “this child is the best thing that ever happened to me,” don’t doubt them. Don’t try and break down the reasons for it. Just know it is the truth, and even if they never verbalize their reasons to you, or themselves, it will remain a fact. This is living. Creating an opportunity to be a more empathetic, understanding and driven version of myself would not have been possible in this way without my son.
There is no ‘normal’ any more. And there is no part of my life I could be more grateful I gave up.
Written by Kat Abianac, 2014.
Original “Why I Gave Up “Normal” When My Son With Down Syndrome Was Born” was posted on Parker’s website.
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