I’ve read somewhere that it takes a special parent to have a “special” child. I remember that cheesy phrase giving me so much comfort and confidence at some point. I also know that, with everything I’ve been through being a parent of a special needs child, it takes more than confidence and strength to carry on. It takes faith and a lot of hope (sometimes false ones), to play that special role.
As I was looking at some old photos of my son which my mother in law showed us today, I realized just how deeply affected I am by my son’s condition. Instead of just admiring his cuteness as a toddler, wondering where the years had gone, I was staring at the pictures in my hand, recalling that time in his toddler years when we first started taking him from one mental health provider to another; recalling the tears, the agony and drama, which – funnily enough – are still part of our day-to-day parenting life. I’m glad the diagnosis part is over at least. Being informed that there’s something wrong with your child may not come as the best news in the world, but knowing what your child has exactly is, well, a relief for many parents like myself who’ve been through hell and back.
When we first knew our son is autistic, all the expectations that have tickled my imagination suddenly disappeared. I kept telling myself that it’s something I have to accept, I must accept that my life, our marriage life, and our son’s life will be drastically changed…forever. As a faithful believer – and only God can see the faith in my heart – I accepted this turn of events as God’s destiny and convinced myself that if I weren’t that strong, God would have never chosen me to mother a special needs child. “God would not burden a soul with that which it cannot endure.” لا يكلف الله نفساً إلا وسعها People would tell me that I’m doing a terrific job following up with specialists and applying recommended behavior modification strategies. They would understand if I felt like giving up or lost control. My friend once admired how calmly I dealt with one of my son’s explosive public tantrums. I said that I’m never that calm and collected at home. I’m never hesitant to admit that I don’t have everything figured out or going exactly as planned in all the schedules I have printed out and taped to my son’s bedroom walls. Maybe I am a strong mother as they claim, but I’m not Wonder Woman … I am not that special. I’m a mom just like any other, who wishes to enjoy her motherhood, watch her kids grow and prosper, with the least worries possible (is that even possible?). I truly appreciate when a friend complains about her own children just to make me feel better. I feel grateful to be surrounded by so many understanding family members and supportive friends. If there’s anything special about our life it’s having so many special people around us who offer and their help and their prayers.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from this experience is seeking this kind of support from loyal and loving people on a daily basis; not for sympathy or pitty but to replenish the strength that is lost with every power struggle or unavoidable conflict. Without my husband’s help, my mother’s and mother in law’s patience, my sister’s advice and my best friend’s pep talks, I don’t know what I’d do. They’re my gifts from Heaven above. If you’re a parent to a child on the spectrum, you know that this support is indispensable. If you can’t find it, you’ll have to seek it. There’s no other way around this. You can’t pour from an empty bucket. I hope that this special love I receive from my treasured friends will forever fill my bucket of hope. And I hope that we’ll one day look back upon this phase and be grateful that we held on just one more day.