How to survive life as a parent with special needs. Okay that is a lofty goal! It is hard enough navigating parenting with a child who is typical. Add in a few diagnoses and life can get overwhelming. But here is my go-to list for surviving the life I never expected.
1. Keep your sense of humor. If you have lost your sense of humor because it was drowned by vomit, poop, tantrums or tears Google comedian Steven Wright. How can you not chuckle at thinking: “Is it weird in here or is it just me?” (Steven Wright)
2. Make a daily goal. For me it used to be brushing my teeth at least once a day. Now it is making sure I get to work without evidence of Boo’s breakfast on my shoulder.
3. If you feel all alone in this life as a parent with special needs, you probably are. But it is your job to find support. To scream at the top of your lungs I NEED HELP. If no one hears you, let me know and I will add my voice to yours.
4. Make your child’s teacher/therapist/doctor your friend. Find out about their lives. Interact with those who your child spends most of their time. It will enrich your life in ways you cannot imagine and make issue #3 far less likely to happen.
5. Have a glass of wine. Not the bottle a glass.
6. Allow yourself to cry, laugh, grieve and rejoice all in the same minute. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost your mind but that you may have found it.
7. Find “ME” time. I know, I hardly ever do. But when I can run for just 30 minutes I come back a much nicer wife, mother and person. It doesn’t have to be every day (oh how I wish I could find me time every day) but make time for you.
8. You hopefully have a partner. The child’s mother or father. Guess what, they are your partner in this and they too are parents with special needs. So lean on them. Consult them. Do not do this all on your own and remember that partner is there. Make them take your child to therapy, a doctor’s appointment or do drop-off at school. For too long of a time I tried to be super mom, handling everything for Boo. Once I let David in our lives were much easier. If you don’t have a partner look at rule #3.
9. It’s okay to wear your sweat pants with a hole in the crotch for a few days in a row. Just try to remember to wear underwear so you are not arrested for pulling a Miley Cyrus at school drop-off.
10. Mix-up your friends. Try to anyway. Keep a healthy mix of parents with special needs and those with that normal kid who just talked back to them. It will make you appreciate your own little wonder. It will also help to make sure you feel alone.
11. It’s okay to get pissed off. Seriously pissy at this life you didn’t expect or prepare. And once you think you’ve got it handled someone will take the rug out from under you. Consider yourself warned. It is okay to question yourself, your God and your child’s doctor. It is not okay for any freaking one to tell you that you are not allowed to feel anger, grief or whatever emotion you may be going through.
12. Your house doesn’t have to be Martha Stewart Spotless. I will say the state of our life is directly reflected in the
mess state of the kitchen. But I have stopped saying to people, sorry for the mess. Instead I say, This is how it always looks and today is actually better.
13. Remember you are more than a parent. You are more than a parent of a child with special needs. You are you and may I say you are doing a fine job of navigating this life the best you can.
Lastly, and this is important: Five years into this life as a parent with special needs I will say this is our life. What we make of it. A glass of wine helps. But what really makes me survive?
The friends who have stood by to hold, comfort and more importantly laugh with me. So find some of those and keep them close. They will help you keep your sense of humor and your sense of self.