But recently I’ve been more cognizant of his disability, and it’s been much easier on both of us. Instead of getting impatient when he gets anxious or displays characteristics of an autistic child, such as obsessive thoughts about, say, Thomas the Train, I tell myself, “My child is a special needs child.” This makes me a little more understanding of him and allows me to love him a little more.
I guess I’ve been in a bit of denial.
I want to treat him as though he’s a typical child, but he isn’t. Since I’ve been more accepting of his atypical state of being, he’s been much more relaxed and has seemed much more — well, typical. That’s a paradox, isn’t it?
Paradox or not, I guess the goal isn’t for him to be typical, but to be the best version of Tommy he can be.
It takes a lot of patience to be a special needs parent. After 14 years of being Tommy’s parent, could I finally be getting the hang of it?
Each day is a new challenge in raising him. He’s got typical needs such as food, clothing, shelter and love which we, as his parents provide for him, but he needs an atypical amount of insight and patience, and especially acceptance from his parents as well. Being autistic, Tommy doesn’t rely on his friends as much as I did or his father did. We are his lifeline. If we don’t understand and accept him, who will?
My epiphany couldn’t come at a better time because in the last few months, Tommy has been asking me if he has special needs, and I’ve been balking at answering him. Today, I finally told him the truth.
“Yes, you’ve got special needs. You’re autistic. You’ve got a disability. It’s not a huge one, but it’s there. Some of my favorite people are disabled,” I continued. “Mommy has a disability, too. She has bipolar disorder. It doesn’t make you any less of a person; a disability just makes you a little different.”
Tommy seemed to accept his state of being since I could accept it. Once he got a truthful answer, he asked no more questions.
Acceptance is much better than denial. The big elephant in the room goes away. I can’t tell you how much better I feel about parenting my son today than I did last week.
Parenting is a learning process as much as growing up is. Both parent and child are on a mutual journey whose destination is ultimately not known. We’re walking into the future, holding hands, feeling optimistic, knowing that we will love each other no matter what. That’s all that matters.
They say that having children makes you grow up. This sentiment is so true. I turned 56 two days ago. It’s about time that I “got real.”
They also say that God picks special people to be the parents of special kids. Lord, I receive this message.
In a way, I feel like the Grinch and that my heart grew maybe not three sizes, but a bit, so that I can shower more love on my child. I am growing to love Tommy more and more day by day. It’s painful almost, but it’s a beautiful thing.
People told me that the teenage years would be tough, but surprisingly enough, they’re much easier than what came before them. Despite his autism, Tommy is quite articulate and with language, we can make sense of the world and our disabilities together.
Tommy wasn’t diagnosed with autism until he was ten, so this whole disability thing is rather new. We didn’t know why Tommy seemed so hard to parent when he was little. All we knew was that it was an incredible “uphill battle.”
But with persistence, sometimes, comes success. Tommy is now a happy, healthy teenager.
Bravo, Tommy! Keep up the good work.
And I promise always to be honest with you.