There is a certain bond among parents we all should embrace.
Raising children is a journey full of peaks and valleys. It’s meant to be challenging and rewarding at the same time. It’s the ups and downs associated with the daily trials and tribulations that remind me this journey is like a train with the adults trying to keep it on the right track. There are derailments along the way, sometimes daily, but each day the train starts on the track headed in the right direction.
Parenting is a unique connection, and we should all rally together as a community because it’s a crazy adventure. No matter how a family appears, there are challenges within. Rather than be competitive, we should be supportive and appreciative. There are individual concerns and worries for all parents to face. Each child is different and comes with strengths and weaknesses. There are obstacles with raising kids every day. The severity of these hurdles may pale in comparison to others, however. For instance, I would argue parenting a special needs child is more difficult than a so-called neuro-typical child. The challenges are more serious and complicated and not as easy to address with typical parenting. It takes creativity and a lot of redirection as well as patience.
I would know because we have an 11-year-old fifth grader who would be described as normal, although he has his challenges. His strengths far outnumber his weaknesses. He has always been an overachiever, but he has a stubborn streak. He can be kind and thoughtful at one moment and mean and inconsiderate at others (although the former far outweigh the latter).
We also are raising a nine-year-old third grader who has special needs. His disabilities are real and serious. He’s unpredictable on a daily basis. He’s exhausting. He has a heart of gold and is loving, but anxiety, which can come about at random times and indiscriminate, also leads to poor decision making. He’s prone to random outbursts of oddness including physical tantrums. He keeps us on our toes for sure.
No matter the parenting journey, the point here is we parents need to be kind to each other. We need to lift each other up. We need to resist kid comparisons and competitiveness. We should be a resource to help others. We should listen to each other’s worries because sometimes it just helps to know others are coping with the same issues. Most importantly we must laugh together because laughter truly is the best medicine.
Parenting should be a bonding experience. I call it the “I see you” bond. Over the last few months, I’ve been keeping notes on “I see you” moments with parents. It’s those instances when only other parents can understand what’s up. Some of these have to do with special needs kids, while others are things I’ve observed with so-called normal families.
•I see you leaving school each morning with a look of relief because a parenting break is ahead of you. It doesn’t matter if this time includes a stressful work environment. It’s more predictable and less stressful than rushing around each morning getting the kids ready for school.
•I see you leaving behind your grocery cart in the store to locate a wandering kid, only to forget where the cart is you left behind.
•I see you at school assemblies beaming with pride over your child’s performance. I see you later agonizing over the terrible video you took because you were too busy actually watching your child perform.
•I see you at travel sports tryouts wanting him or her to do their best while also preparing how you will cushion the disappointment if your child does not make the team.
•I see you parking in the same parking spot every day because your child likes routine and freaks out at the mere mention of parking closer to school on a rainy day.
•I see you standing by your vehicle with the door open waiting for the electronics game of choice to be completed before going into the grocery store. After all, getting to school or an appointment on time is far less important than completing the latest Minecraft build or MarioKart race.
•I see you walking into school with cases of water while your kid runs far ahead with nothing but an empty bookbag and lunch bag.
•I see you and your spouse exchanging eye roll looks at church running out of options to keep your little ones entertained.
•I see you battling with a teenager who vacillates in minutes between sweet and caring to rude and nasty.
•I see you catching a quick nap in your vehicle while your kid is at sports practice.
•I see you and get your efforts to avoid meaningless small talk at the grocery store because I share the sentiment.
•I see you and agree Fortnite is ridiculous.
•I see you at field day glancing at your watch and wondering how these teachers do it every day.
•I see you running your hands through your hair and rubbing your eyes wondering why you are always so tired.
I know I take comfort in these observations because I feel it, too. Maybe it will bring you peace in your respective journey as well.