Being a parent often means that you will have unsolicited advice bestowed upon you when you least expect it. But being a special needs parent means you will not only get unwanted advice, but you are also likely to be counseled about how you should, or should not, feel about your child’s challenges.
This might happen in real life, among your family and friends, but it’s even more likely to happen out there on the interwebz.
But I want to tell you a secret about that. Ready? Come closer…
It’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling. You don’t need anyone’s permission for your feelings.
You see, this is a journey. Not just life, although life is definitely a journey. But I’m really talking about parenting a special needs child. There is a process involved that begins when you start to have concerns about your child’s development and it goes all the way through diagnosis, denial, anger, acceptance, and advocacy. In between all of those, you have to remember to include a long period of educating yourself and your family about the diagnosis. When I say this is a process, I really mean it’s a long, complicated journey that’s full of setbacks and triumphs.
Each person’s process is unique to that individual, and depends on their own fears, beliefs, history, and emotional state. There is no set amount of time for each stage of the process, it’s completely dependent on each person’s own experience. So for anyone to have the sheer audacity to tell someone else how they should or shouldn’t feel is beyond poor etiquette; it’s someone that is in a different place in their own process, not allowing another person to have the space and time to completely process their own feelings.
Yes, I’m talking about the recurring tendency for people to silence others for expressing that they “hate autism” or that they wish their child wasn’t “trapped by their autism.” As long as you are exercising good parenting judgment and not saying those things to, or in front of, your child, then by all means you are entitled to feel those things. They’re feelings and, as such, are a natural part of being. Feelings can’t be right or wrong, only actions can be defined that way. So if you have a personal blog where you write about your journey, then you have every right to express the very real feelings that you experience on that journey. If you need to hate autism today, then go ahead and hate it. Just know that you won’t feel that way forever.
No matter what anyone else says.
The only thing that IS wrong is when someone tries to silence someone else, to alter that person’s process to suit their own selfish agenda. Don’t let anyone do that to you. You WILL find your way, all the way to the experience of acceptance. I promise. But everyone has to get to that place in their own time, on their own terms, not on someone else’s.
Just try not to go on this journey alone, okay? Find other parents, those that understand and accept you where you are. Those that judge your feelings and nitpick your words? Avoid them. They’re so busy being self-righteous that they don’t have time to be understanding or nurturing. And they seem to have forgotten that they were once in that place themselves.
And above all, remember this: no one but YOU understands your child and your family dynamic. Every child’s needs are different, and some are more intense than others. Own your feelings. Feel them. And don’t let anyone else take that away from you. And never be afraid to take the next step in your journey.