The following is an incredible piece by a wonderful woman I met this week (one of many wonderful men and women I met at a conference I attended). Each day, I am amazed at how awesome, how giving, how compassionate so many of the families impacted by autism are (and that includes the family member on the spectrum--awesome, giving, compassionate). They and their family members with autism should be celebrated, appreciated, and applauded for getting up each day and moving forward, working harder, giving a little more.
I’m the Parent….
by Tanya Gonzales
I’m the parent of a beautiful young boy with Autism. So often I find myself thinking what it means to be the parent of a special needs child and the feelings I often wish I could scream from the roof tops. I have captured some of them here and share them as a way of hopefully building understanding, for I’m the parent of a special needs child.
Teachers, I’m the parent of a special needs child and I know that as a special needs teacher, you face many challenges in the class room, I know this because I’m the parent. Sometimes I wish you would be as quick to tell me about his victories as you are about his problem behaviors. I long for the day you can’t wait to tell me about something he has accomplished and that you would realize how bad I need to hear that, because I’m the parent. The parent who mourns lost dreams and wonders if my child will be able to accomplish even just the basics, and live a fulfilling life. The next time you say to me in disgust that “he was in time out most of the day and just out of control” please take a moment and remember, I’m the parent, and a few kind words, or a gentler approach would be much appreciated. Please also know that I will always have concern for his safety, want the best education, advocate on his behalf, and will not make apologies if, while I am caring for my son, I use a strong tone, stand my ground, or fight for what my son is entitled to because I’m the parent of a child who cannot do this for himself.
Strangers, as you stare and wonder why I can’t control my child or if he’s a spoiled brat. I wish that you would just know, I’m not a bad mother, my son is not a spoiled brat, I’m the parent. I’m the parent of a child who sometimes can’t handle his environment, has a hard time waiting, is over stimulated, or is just trying to process all that is going on. Instead of staring, offer a hand, or just a simple act of kindness, a smile, a wish for a better day. I’m not a bad mother, I’m the parent of a beautiful child who blesses me in more ways than your staring, judge mental eyes will ever know.
Friends, most of you know me as an outgoing, some say strong, independent, no nonsense woman and most of the time that is true but please also remember, I’m the parent of a child who has needs that sometimes drain me but mostly break my heart. I’m often filled with questions, “what will happen to Jordan if something happens to me”, “will he drive? Love? Marry? live on his own? have a seizure and hurt himself?” “will he eat regular food? have I been a good mom? have I done enough?” Sometimes I am so overwhelmed it’s all I can do to get out of bed but I must, for I’m the parent. Please understand that like Jordan, I can’t always cope with my feelings and at these times please know that sometimes I need space, sometimes a strong shoulder and listening ear, sometimes a cheerleader to tell me to keep going. Sometimes I just need you to know that underneath the silliness, the sometimes false bravado, the “life of the party” mentality, I’m the parent of a child with special needs.
And my dearest Jordan, you are a child who constantly amazes, inspires, and enlightens me in ways that I can’t always articulate. Each time you touch, hug or kiss me, look at me with those beautiful big eyes, lay your long arm, with man like hands around my shoulder, I thank God that I’m the parent. The parent that gets to brag to all my friends about your genius qualities. I’m the parent that gets to laugh every day, see your face light up every day when I pick you up from school, and know soul deep love that overwhelms me and fills me with the greatest joy. Aaah yes, I’m the parent.
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