The Ache Of Special Needs Parenting

by Leah Brown
Originally Published: 
special needs parenting
Linda Epstein / iStock

I thought we had more time — more time before other kids noticed my son’s differences. I expect the awareness from adults. I see it almost every day in the “Oh, bless your heart, Mama. You’ve got this” smiles from the elderly lady grocery shopping, the “I’m so sorry your son is that way” judgmental stares while my son is struggling at the mall, and in the “I’m so glad my son doesn’t have a disability. I could never handle that” glances of relief from other mothers at the swimming pool.

I didn’t prepare myself for kids reacting to my son with special needs differently so soon. He isn’t even 4 yet. I thought we had more time. I hoped for more time. I should have prayed for more time.

Yesterday, we were enjoying a family afternoon at the park. Three little girls ran through the play structure, their dark brown pigtails bouncing atop their heads as they giggled and played together. They couldn’t have been older than 5. They were all dressed in bright colors and their laughter carried through the park as they played together.

I saw these girls watching my son as he jumped up and down, spun in circles, and vocalized his excitement as he does — saying as much as he can without the ability to speak (yet!). His squeals of happiness and laughter told me he was having a wonderful time. Then it happened.

The girls ran past my son as they had before. But this time, one touched his arm and another yelled, “Crazy!” as they ran away laughing together. Time stopped. Not for any of the other families playing together, and not even for my son who continued to jump and spin and laugh as if nothing had happened — but for me. Time stood still and the sadness was overwhelming as I realized he does stand out and other kids do notice.

Have you ever felt the weight of something so heavy you struggle to breathe for a brief moment before your body takes over, reminding you to inhale then exhale? It’s overpowering, friends.

No one prepares you for the heartache that comes with motherhood, for the ache that comes with loving someone more than yourself, or for that powerful sense of protection you feel over that tiny human from the moment they are placed in your arms. It’s an ache so strong that you want to cry and belly laugh all at the same time. When you parent a child with special needs, those feelings are extra, stronger, more. They have to be. You have to be.

I can’t protect my son from the sadness in this world. None of us can. But I can be sure he knows he’s loved for who he is, that he’s accepted for who he is, that he’s not crazy, and that different is nothing to be ashamed of.

As my son came down the slide, I wrapped him in a big hug. I whispered in his ear, “You are my Christmas morning. Before I met you, I missed you. Mama loves you as big as the world.”

And in my heart of hearts, I know that my baby hears my words even if he can’t speak back to me.

I know he hears those words louder than the looks and words of those who don’t yet understand.

And that’s enough for me.

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