This goes out to all of those parents whose children have special needs – not just autism but all physical and developmental delays and exceptionalities. I want you to know that I see you.
I see the tiredness in your face from yet another sleepless night. This tiredness comes from not just a night or two of bad sleep but weeks and months of not sleeping more than a 5 hour stretch (if you’re lucky). I see you when you get up at the crack of dawn every morning ready to do it all again.
I see you reading articles and books, posting in online support groups and trying to gather as much information as possible at all hours of the day. I see you trying to figure out what therapies and supports would be best for your child all while figuring out how you are going to afford it all.
I see you filling out piles and piles of paperwork. All of this paperwork translates into meetings and assessment after assessment. I see you trying to juggle home life, work life and this new life that requires you to juggle everything without letting any balls drop.
I see you become the best damned project manager there is – there is no amount of training that can prepare you to be a special needs parent, but when you are forced to become one I see you struggle but find a groove to make it work and thrive.
I see you have conversations with other parents, and I see you quietly stop talking and look down at your feet as others talk about milestones or amazing activities their children are doing. I see you fight back tears as other parents complain about their children that talk too much or how exhausting it is that their children always need their attention. You see, they don’t know what it is like to desperately want a meaningful interaction with their child. It isn’t their fault of course – but I see you giving them the benefit of the doubt.
I see you celebrating small victories and I understand how amazing it feels when you have moments of connection with your child. I see you riding these highs and giving you strength to keep at it tomorrow.
I see the bad days too. I see you hiding somewhere to cry – away from your child and your partner because there has been just one bad moment more than you can handle in a day.
I see you and your partner have some difficult conversations. Some days, you are just going through the motions, and others you celebrate together. If you are lucky (as I am) this experience will bring you and your partner closer together than ever before and you will learn more about each other through this – no matter how well you think you know them.
I see you at the park, or the grocery store, or a birthday party trying to have a normal family outing, but knowing full well that this normal experience could change on a dime – and being prepared for this at a moment’s notice.
I see you hearing the silence. This is a part of the journey that is sometimes the hardest. The silence is from friends and family members who don’t talk about your child and your experience. The ones that tell you that you are over-reacting and that your kid will grow out of it. Or, even worse, they pretend that it doesn’t exist. You wonder how they can pretend that something doesn’t exist when it consumes your every waking moment.
Don’t focus on the ones that are silent. Talk and laugh and focus on your true friends and family – the ones that will be there for you no matter what. Look around you – you know who they are.
Most of all I see your love. Your love is what drives you to get out of bed everyday and try again. Your love is what your child sees most – even on days where you think you could have done better. Your love is the strongest weapon in your arsenal.
I see you – and you are not alone.