daily, my newsfeed is filled with links titled '10 things special need parents wish you knew' and 'how to help your friend who's child is autistic' and so on and so forth. (I will admit to writing a 10 things list here , although not for how to be my friend.) I often click them just to see how I relate. most of the time, I don't. and, I get annoyed at how much they seem to separate parenting from special needs parenting.
I HATE, with a passion, when people refer to me as 'adoptive mom.' I correct them. i'm mom. adoption was something that took place a few years ago, but doesn't define me as a parent. i'm certain that parenting my children is the same as parenting most children who are 5 and 2.
and, similarly, I get annoyed at being a 'special needs mom.' it's a little different because my kids do add things into the mix that some others don't deal with. but, my actual parenting is just parenting. when I go to story time, I just want to hang out and be one of the moms instead of the 'special mom.'
today, we went to the local children's museum to escape the rainy grouchiness that was encompassing our house. outside of the building a road is closed because they are preparing to build a new hotel that will employ people with special needs. (the irony was not lost on me) I parked in a spot for people with disabilities so that I could take shilo's gait trainer in for her. I got out, put her in the stroller, and pushed it while I pulled the trainer behind me until we got inside. did I mention it was raining? pretty hard at this point? turns out the sidewalk and road are closed. I can't get to the ramps for anything. I end up having to walk with my children and gear in the road, trying to stay far enough over to avoid cars. I hit Abigail with the gait trainer multiple times by accident. she was pretty frustrated. I was ready to cuss, and we were all soaked by the time I finally found a ramp to use.
it didn't get much better after that-the door openers didn't work, and when I got inside, I realized that while the building met ada standards, that was about as far as it went. shilo couldn't even play in the water table (nor could a child in a wheelchair) unless I stood and held her up to it. it's her favorite thing to do at places like this, and she was frustrated. I was frustrated beyond belief that trying to do something fun with my kids, and allow shilo freedom, was so much more work for me, and in the end, shilo could do very little.
suddenly, all those readings that had frustrated me went through my head, and I realized that I do have things as a parent that my friends of typical kids can't understand. they don't think twice about parking, and accessibility. they have no idea what it's like to need both a stroller and a gait trainer because it's guaranteed that your child will get too tired to continue to walk at some point. their kids run freely and play with things while I have to take mine in and out, in and out to reach things, and navigate steps.
however, I have some amazing friends. and while they might not understand those things, if I told them this story, they would be aware. they would agree with how much that sucks, and they would likely even be willing to help me advocate to change some of those things. the thing about parenting is that we all have some sort of battles. there's no use arguing over harder or easier. it's a journey we're all on together. find people who will walk it with you, love you, and not judge you, even if their journey is much different. help them understand the differences, and allow them to walk through the hard things with you. most of the time, that's what they want to do if you'll just tell them how. not in list form. not for the whole world, because my needs, are much different than other parents that have children with special needs. no, just tell them. talk to them. let them in.