Living in Dallas, Texas, there is a lot of news coverage on John F Kennedy, as the 50th anniversary of his death approaches. Many of his quotes have splashed across my TV. I have heard, "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men," many times over the years. Being a parent of a special needs child made me look at that particular quote a little differently then when I was younger.
A friend and I were recently talking about our kids. She's a single mom of 4 and I have 2 kids, one with Asperger's Syndrome/High Functioning Autism. We were talking about typical parenting issues -- kids complaining about what we made for dinner, trying to get them to clean their rooms, and hearing "I'm bored" hundreds of times a day.
I made a comment about my 5 year old with Asperger's having difficulty adjusting to Kindergarten. Sensory sensitivities were overwhelming him, causing him to cry every morning. He begged for me to let him stay home, and my heart was breaking for him. My friend told me something to the effect of, "I don't know how you do it. I just couldn't handle that."
The funny thing was, the first thought I had in response was that I had no idea how she could handle the situation she is in. We both face difficult days. Parenting is not the fun and easy life we pictured when we dreamed of having kids. I realized neither of us possessed the strength we have today back when we first started. We face the day in front of us, do the best we can and gain the strength we need as we go.
Before my son was born, I had no idea how to be a special needs parent. There are still days I feel like I don't know how to be a good parent, let alone a good special needs parent. I feel overwhelmed, make mistakes and break down. I did not come into parenting any stronger than the people down the street. I don't feel "special." I feel like a mom that would do anything to help her son.
If I seem like I know what I'm doing, it is not because it is easy for me. It is because I have gained strength bit by bit. I grow stronger each time I advocate for my son. I grow stronger reaching out to other parents who have been here before me. I keep going because I want to help my son become a stronger man. In the processe,s he helps me be a stronger parent.
Rachel H. never grasped the depth of JFK's quote until she heard it as a parent to a son who is not always so easy.