Long ago, in a land not so far away, I picked up the label "special." Not me, no, the label was for my special needs child. This is what we call it now. Retarded, held back, different, slow, freak - we're moving past those awful stereotypes; those terrible words. Now, we're special, and when things are special, life changes. There is no going back.
Divorce and single parenting strikes many families when a special needs child is born. When I thought the one closest to me would help me, rally around me, I found myself alone to parent two children.
"It will bring you together or tear you apart," said one mother. My son, born with Down Syndrome, struggled to walk, talk, eat, and breathe. Most things cost more; everything seems to take more time; and there is no way to know what one day will bring from dusk to dawn. Forget about sleeping. I found myself without sleep, money, or a home. I felt judged by society; I felt I'd fail myself, my kids - I was going down.
Special needs parents spend more time on the basics that even I took for granted with my first child - hours of the day devoured and eaten up by the smallest of tasks. Stairs can take, what seems, forever to climb (if at all); words years to utter. I shared similar experiences with other mothers when my first child was a baby and toddler. We truly bonded, but no one else's kid had Down Syndrome. I ran to the computer for help. Pictures of other Down Syndrome children lifted my spirits. I saw someone could make it. I saw children thriving. The Internet was my loyal friend, always there to flush out a lead or dig through a drama. Other mothers were my greatest guides. Eventually I networked with parents who had special kids, found a bond in our stories, and even made a few friends with similar situations.
There is a secret to true success in parenting a special needs child: remember at every moment of every day, it is really, really special. My son shows me strength grander than any mountain climber. He faces his own Mount Everest every day. He showed me how to fight, never give up, push back, say no when necessary, and hug as often as possible. His gigantic smiles change the sour moments into Light.
Who makes it special? The kids do. I feel my son chose me. He never lets me off the hook, and I'd never want him to.
More from parenting