Translating the “I’m fine” of being a special needs mom is complex at best. The struggles of being a special needs parent is a real thing, that is why today I’m sharing encouragement that every special needs family can use.
Some days it’s easy to believe in the power of yet. Some days it’s easy to be fired up and full of grace. Some day’s all I have left is “I’m fine“. Some days, that’s all any parent of a child with special needs has left. And often, almost always really, we are left alone after we give away our last tired smile and “fine”.
When I Say I’m Fine: Special Needs Parenting
When I say I’m fine it means many things. Sometimes, I really am fine. Often I am tired. Today I am beaten and broken and too tired to say fine. Today I am a crumpled mess, sobbing in the arms of my dear husband, because I just don’t have any fight left. Today I am disappearing under the mountain of therapy, hurdles, meltdowns, allergies, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings.
And it happens. This thing we call life. It happens to all of us. It leaves us stripped down and bare. It leaves wounds.
These fights we go through, these battles for and with our children, they take all we have and then some. Special needs parents often hear “I don’t know how you do it“, but we do not see it as a choice.
We fight this uphill battle with bloody knuckles and bended knee. We march on, day after day, often with no break and no end in sight. The same as every other parent, though it looks different for each of us.
So what do I mean when I say “I’m fine”?
- I mean that it’s Ok right now. We are good. We have most everything under pretty good control and are in a season of restfulness-ish.
- I mean that I know you’re only asking to be polite and would much rather go back to playing Farmville on your phone while waiting to pick up your child than to hear about how difficult it was to get my child out the door this morning because his shoes are a constant source of frustration to him.
- I’m too tired to tell you what’s really going on. I may be in dire need of company, coffee, and quiet, but I’m at a point where I just can’t get those words out without crying so I just say as little as possible and go on.
- I mean that I am over having to cook multiple meals and snacks every single day because there is virtually no place we can safely eat out for my child with food allergies. I would probably ask you to come visit if I wasn’t so embarrassed by the constant state of disarray in my kitchen because the dishwasher can’t keep up with the number of dishes and meals we cook through every day.
- I mean that I would love to really know if you really, truly, in earnest want to know how I am. I know the circles under my eyes are dark, and my hair is in a bun again, and maybe you’re afraid to ask because without a special needs child you are afraid you won’t know what to say to me or how to say it. But, seriously, if you really do care, it’s OK to ask. And there’s no special secret-society for parents of children with special needs. You don’t need to know a handshake, you just need to know how to lend an ear, shoulder, and sometimes tissues. (Don’t worry, we don’t give the used tissues back)
Today, friends, I am asking for your help. You see, special needs parenting can be lonely. Parenting children with special needs can feel like an isolation tank.
Today I am asking you to dig down deep. Think about someone you know who doesn’t ever ask for help. Think of someone about whom you’ve wondered “how they do it“. When you see that person again, give them a smile. Give them a hug. Ask them how they really are. And if they say fine, but you don’t quite think they mean “everything is good”, then ask again. Or drop them a card in the mail telling them how awesome you think they are. Send them a Starbucks card if they are too far away to take them one yourself, and plan a FaceTime date to catch up. Do something to let that person know you are in this with them. That they don’t have to be the strong tower all on their own.
Special needs parents, we are all in this together. Let’s help each other find the beauty, even in the barren and rocky places.
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