If you’ve read this blog before you might remember that I have a pet peeve about articles written in the second person, particularly parenting ones. (See how I just did that? Used the second person?) “If your child won’t sleep through the night you should…” “You know you’re a twin mom when…” It attempts to universalize experiences that are, in most ways, pretty individual. The most recent manifestation of this phenomenon that I have noticed is on pages or in groups aimed at “special needs” parents. It’s the ubiquitous special needs inspirational post. (This blogger did a send-up of this issue recently.)
These listicles or memes are posted frequently in some of the groups I check. There was one I saw recently, and I realized I could not relate to anything on the list. I’m not saying these emotions are invalid, or wrong or that some “special needs” parents don’t feel them, but it certainly not a feeling we all share.
One was: We are good at keeping secrets. Um, no. I have a blog about my daughter’s disability. A PUBLIC blog. Shortly after the girls got home, I was chatting with a young guy at my local coffee shop, and before I knew it I was launching into my daughter’s brain injury. I cried with mothers at my son’s school whom I barely knew at the time. I find it comes up occasionally at the lunch table over work, because, guess what, I spend a fair amount of my home life dealing with it. So I am not a secret-keeper. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve never been able to keep much in for long. What can I say – I like to talk about myself.
Another was: We are jealous of other families. Again, NO. Before I had a daughter with CP, I probably assumed people in my position did feel this way. Do I sometimes wish my kid didn’t have to deal with her disability? Yes. Do I sometimes wish I could change that rocky first few days when this all happened? Of course. Do I feel jealous of other people’s family? Wish I had some other snotty-nosed kid who could walk instead of my delightful gal? Wish I had YOUR kid? No. I will, someday, get to the point where I stop wishing this hadn’t happened. Because it has.
Another meme you see a lot is that special kids choose special parents. Having spent quite a bit of time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit watching many desperately ill children and their parents, I can say that, sadly, that’s not true. As one of the nurses said though, a lot of them just rise to the occasion. I do feel like I am a good parent and a good advocate for her. Not perfect though. Not born for this. Just dealing with it because, well, I have to.
While I’m complaining, I’m also not in love with the term special needs. I feel like it’s just so broad. People with gifted children are calling themselves special needs parents. Do they face challenges? Sure. Do they deal with the stuff we do? No. Should we get inspiration from the same insipid quotes? Probably not. I do love reading special need parent blogs and I learn a lot from *some* of them. But I don’t even necessarily relate to parents of other kids with CP, as in some cases their CP might only affect a few very minor things, whereas C is classified as “quad.” And even among people with four limbs affected, there is a huge range. So wouldn’t it be fitting to embrace the diversity and stop trying to assume we all have the same feelings?