Last week was all about loneliness but today is all about resilience. It is a manifesto of sorts. It is a call to action. It is a celebration of the amazing parenting that is going on all around us.
When we acknowledge the painful feelings we should also acknowledge the deep reserve of strength and creativity most parents bring to this endeavor–this project of raising children with special needs.
Resilience is the ability to survive and even thrive under difficult circumstances.
I have found that generally the parents of children with special needs are an incredibly resilient group of people.
Most special needs parents have been told about how their child does not fit in. Many different professionals have many different ideas about what is wrong. Most of us know in great detail about the challenges our children face.
We know that learning disabilities means that your bright child starts to hate school and calls himself stupid. We know that having problems with social pragmatics potentially means being bullied and ignored by classmates.
We know that they are often enrolled in programs and school that do not necessarily meet their needs in an ideal way. We know they are often being taught in ways that do not always optimize their strengths.
No one is pulling the wool over our eyes.
Yet still, we see our children’s talents and their strengths. We focus on the ways that school can be helpful. Still we celebrate our time together. We actually enjoy our children (well, most of the time).
And we fight for them to get what they need. We take the long view. We understand what it means to be a late bloomer. We know what they can do, given the opportunity and the right environment.
When you are the resilient parent of a special needs child you do not get stuck on the little hurts and disappointments that happen on a regular basis. You do not let a diagnosis define a child. Yes, we feel it all but we do not let it stop us from imagining a full and meaningful life for our children.
We take the long view on success and achievement.
We live mindfully in the present moment.
Living mindfully is the antidote to worry. Living mindfully zaps anxiety. Living mindfully supports resilience because we do not turn away from the loneliness and the pain but we also do not let it take over. Living mindfully means we feel the joy and the hope also.
Now I realize that I am painting a rosy and perhaps wishful picture of the best-case scenario of parenting under difficult circumstances. Of course on a daily basis we all struggle with frustration and grief. Of course, at the end of the day we are often depleted and stressed out.
As we figure out how to navigate this terrain, each of us needs to create her own road map. A road map that not only remediates problems but also celebrates strengths.
Our special needs children will need to be resilient in their lives. They will need to be emotionally intelligent. And no one will teach them that but us. That is true for all children but it is especially true for children with special needs. And they will learn this from us. They will watch us. They watch us when we are frustrated and lonely and sad. And they will watch us celebrate and be determined.
I am seeing a lot resilient and determined parents these days. It is worth acknowledging and it is worth celebrating.