I used to be that mom. The mom who pitied those special needs parents.
I would be in the grocery store and I would see the child with special needs yelling out or rocking themselves, I would smile politely and then turn away feeling bad for that mom.
I would be at a restaurant and see parents wheeling their disabled or special needs child to the table and think, I am so lucky to have “normal” children.
I felt sorry for the moms who had a child with special needs.
Yes, I admit it, I pitied them.
That is probably why, last December when my son was born with an extra chromosome, the thing I abhorred the most was the thought that someone would pity me.
That feeling I had for those other moms is something I now see as total ignorance. You see, the reason I felt sorry for those “other” moms was because I viewed being the parent of a special needs child as being a burden. I thought it was something that no one would want, if they were able to choose.
I thought that somehow those moms were being cheated out of parenting a normal child. I thought that they must wish every day that their child was normal.
Those were all things that I actually thought, before I too became the mom of a special needs child.
I don’t feel sorry for myself. I don’t want anyone to pity me. I would still want my son a million times over if I had to choose.
I was so ignorant.
Back when I saw those “other” moms, what I didn’t realize is that most of them wouldn’t change their experience for the world. I don’t mean to say that if their child couldn’t walk, they wouldn’t give them the ability to do so. Or, if their child was locked inside their own mind they wouldn’t give anything to let them out, or get in there with them. What I mean is that most wouldn’t change some of the amazing things about being the parent of a special needs child.
You see, there are things, as the mom of a typical child that you just don’t understand. I know I didn’t.
When you are the parent of a typical child, you know nothing of the “secret club.” You don’t understand the intense draw to another parent or the total and complete camaraderie that exists just out of your reach. The club of new moms has nothing on the club of parents who have children with special needs. It transcends age, race, socioeconomic status, and gender.
Parenting a child with special needs is what allows you to see another parent across a crowded store and instantly note that her child also has Down Syndrome and you cannot wait to make eye contact or say, hello. It is what allows you to strike up an instant friendship online simply because you and someone else have children who both share extra chromosomes. It is what makes you desire to advocate not only for your own child, but for so many others, all because you have something in common.
Having a child with special needs gives you the words to say to another parent, new on this journey, when no one else’s words have any effect. It allows you to form bonds that are so strong that your best friend of 20 years cannot compare. It allows you to feel empathy on a level you hadn’t even realized before becoming the parent of a child with special needs.
I no longer see a parent out in public and pity them for being a special needs parent, because I am too.
I now know that they don’t need pity because they have more love, empathy, understanding and finesse than most other parents combined. I see them and I know that no matter what their child’s disability, they probably have something they can teach me, and I can teach them too. We may not have anything else in common aside from having children with special needs, but that is more than enough.
I used to be that mom, but now I understand that when I was busy pitying them, it was really me who needed to be pitied, I just didn’t understand.