If there is one thing I have learned in being a parent, and a parent to an Exceptional Child, is that there are all kinds of experts. It is more than the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” With a child with special needs or who is exceptional, it takes a village full of all types of people, namely experts in figuring out our kids’ behaviors and temperaments, good and bad. There have been, and continue to be, the experts with certification who have given me a wonderful into what Michael is doing and thinking, but then there are the other experts. At the top of this list is, foremost, Michael himself. In the last few years, as he has become more verbal and better able at expressing himself, in his own words he has told me to the best of his ability why he does what he does and how it affects him. I can’t stress how good this is, however he does tend to go on at times. Chip off the old block. 🙂
The other experts I’ve come to realize in getting to know Michael’s unique personality surprised me at first. It has been me, his mother. This took me by surprise as my frame of reference for parenting was for neuro typical kids, and even with that, was not extensive even with my years of babysitting. As I mentioned in previous posts, at first I didn’t trust myself or my instincts in parenting Michael. After all, he developed atypically from the beginning, so what I did I know how to handle? I used something though that every mother uses and gets right on the mark if it is done as it’s supposed to be. What I used was my mother’s instinct and love for my child, for all of who he is to be the best he could be. Of course at first I was trying to change him, make him into the person I thought he should be. Meanwhile, he was changing me, and high time. I needed someone to wake me up, and wake me up is what Michael did.
After becoming enlightened with my own power in helping Michael as he was helping me, I realized that the other experts around me often gave me wonderful advice, tips and support. These “experts” are none other than my Mom friends with special needs children. I’ve often joked I could tell them anything and they wouldn’t be shocked. I know it is not a joke. I’ve never met a group of parents so open, so non-judgmental. After all, who knows about being judged for your kid’s behavior more than my Mom friends with special needs friends? Nobody, really. And at first they were like my mini consultants, and I probably like theirs. We networked to help our kids. But then the real growth of friendship happened. They get it. They so get what it is like to love your child one minute, be frustrated with raising them the next minute, and worry about what their future will be like a minute later. You also worry about getting old and being able to help them if they are not fully independent by the time you are a senior, and want to run to the hills screaming in the next minute after that as parenting is nothing like you imagined it to be. They also get that sometimes all that is needed is a night out to laugh, cry, drink, or do all of the above. Sometimes a phone call starting with a, “How are things?” or “Do you need to talk?” is all that is needed. And the advice I have gotten from them from what worked, what didn’t, what was funny, what was not funny, and sometimes just confidence to trust in myself, has made all the difference to my parenting Michael with confidence.
Exceptional Parents, how many of you have a community of other Exceptional Parents you turn to in person, on line, or that you connect with over dinner, coffee, drinks? Going out in couples is great too, though my husband and I still have to try this without children one night. 🙂 I can’t stress how important it is to make these ties, even when things are going well. You know they are there, your parenting experts, and if you are lucky, they become the friends that God chose for you to have before you needed them. I know that is who my Mom friends are and always will be. Until next time.