The look on her face spoke a thousand words and reflected several emotions at once while I spoke to her,
“It’s okay. We want to be sure your daughter is okay. “
Before I could finish speaking, she interrupted stating,
“She has special needs.”
At that moment, I wanted to comfort her before delivering the news that I watched her daughter have an “accident” in the play zone at a museum bustling with kids. Her daughter was inching her way across the rope tunnel when it happened. The drips came down forming a puddle on the floor next to where I was standing.
My first thoughts were...Is she okay? Someone needs to help her get down. She seems a bit afraid. Do her parents or guardians know what just happened?
I then thought about all of the other kids running barefoot through the play area and I knew maintenance needed to be contacted to have the area cleaned.
What would be the best way to start the process? There were no maintenance workers in sight, so another mom and I first sought to find the parent or guardian of the young girl and make her aware of the situation. In the meantime, we worked on getting our own children out of the play zone.
We found the mom and began to engage in brief conversation with her. I could sense the frustration, embarrassment, sadness and a plethora of emotions raging at once. I wanted to simply inform, comfort, give her space, and then seek to get the cleaning job done for the sake of the other children.
From the look on her face, I felt like the bad guy as the bearer of the news. To be honest, I’m not sure what I could’ve done differently. Perhaps I could’ve not sought to find the mom and resorted to finding maintenance instead. I’m not sure.
I can say that my heart broke for the situation. My heart broke for the mom. She walked away with her daughter and I assumed I would never see her again. I was happy to pass her in the museum hallway shortly afterwards. I stopped to offer some reassuring words.
I wanted her to know that I cared.
I wanted her to know that it’s okay.
I wanted her to know that with my own health issues, I’ve had embarrassing moments in public.
I wanted her to know that I taught special education and understand.
Most importantly, I wanted her to know that from one mom to the next… I get it.
Dear Mom of the Child with Special Needs,
I know the devastating feeling of the “hard” moments in parenting. All parents have those moments. Parenting is a great equalizer in that sense. I’ve been embarrassed when one of my own tantrums in public. My heart sank when I heard a difficult health diagnosis (that my child thankfully has since outgrown). I’ll never forget the journey of tears when his diagnosis was unknown and we sat awaiting to hear if it was the big C. We were blessed to hear good news. I know others hear life-changing words when they get a diagnosis or gain understanding into their child’s situation.
In one sense, parenting places each of us at the mercy of the journey. There are joyous moments, difficult moments, proud moments, embarrassing moments… and parents experience each of them.
From that perspective, I want to tell you (and all moms of children with special needs) that I am just like you. I have challenging moments as a parent, too. It’s okay. I want you to know that you are not judged. Your child is amazing.
You were thrown a moment of challenge, and it’s not your fault. You just need to get through it. You just need to not let it get you down. You need to keep going. You are doing great.
I want to empathize with you and show you compassion. I’ve been the teacher listening to the heart-breaking stories and challenges of parents of children with special needs. I’ve been in the classroom seeking creative ways to teach my students because they need different methods of learning from others. I understand that there are challenges you face as a parent, challenges your family experiences, and hurdles that your child overcomes that others don’t have to face or think twice about. I understand that. We ALL need to understand that. YOU, dear mom, are a super-hero. You need to be thanked for you undying efforts to give your best.
On one hand, I know parents of children with special needs don’t want to to be singled-out. I get it. I know you want to experience life as normal as possible for your family and child. I know you want your child to have the best in life and that you seek to embrace opportunities and adventures for your child. It is commendable. It is not always easy, but you’re respected.
I’m sure it is hard. I want you know that I have compassion. I urge others to have compassion for you and your child. I urge others to give you the respect you deserve.
When others have tough parenting days, I’m sure your “tough” day is much harder.
I respect your efforts.
I respect your journey.
You need to know that.
You are amazing.
Your child is precious.
Please rest in that.
Please be encouraged.
This simple letter is one small way of saying,
“Keep going. You are doing a great job.”
Planting God’s Seeds of Hope
*Brook Joy writes articles on Faith, Life, Culture, and her personal journey with Health (IBD). Brook is a chocolate-loving wife & homeschooling mama (and a Christian for 20+ years)… planting and growing God’s seeds of hope at missionzera.com