What My Special Needs Kid Taught Me About Parenting
This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.
There is not a book in the world that can prepare you for parenthood. I know because while I was pregnant with Norrin, I read more than a few trying to do so.
And while we were going through the Early Intervention evaluation process I read more books, trying to prepare myself for an autism diagnosis. Even though I tried to prepare myself, the autism diagnosis was still a kick in the gut. There was that small part of me that thought the doctor would say Norrin was “typical” and that there was no need to worry.
On the day, Norrin was diagnosed I cried all the way home from the doctors office. I went into my room and cried some more. I buried my head in a pillow and screamed as loud as I could. I was heartbroken, angry, confused. I had read somewhere that after a diagnosis, there is a series of emotions that a parent goes through, I felt them all – and some emotions are better left unsaid.
Nothing I read prepared me for the years ahead. Not a single book prepared me for the hardships of parenting a special needs child. Or for the revolving door of therapists in and out of my home. Of the heartache I’d feel seeing other kids Norrin’s age in the playground playing appropriately. Nothing I read prepared me for the emotional toll it takes to parent a special needs child and advocating for my child’s right to an appropriate education.
But those books also never prepared me for the excitement I’d feel when Norrin finally said Mommy for the first time. Or for the pride I’d feel watching Norrin jump for the first time. Or for the tears I cried the first time he said, “I love you” without me saying it first. In the last four years since Norrin’s diagnosis – there have been so many firsts and I’ve treasured all of them. They are the milestones that keep me going on the really hard days.
That’s the thing about raising a child with autism. You can make peace with it, embrace it, know you don’t want to cure it, but to prepare for it? To accept it? Acceptance is not a one shot deal, it’s an on going process. There will always be something new to accept.
I spent a lot of time preparing for parenthood and even more time preparing for special needs parenting, searching for answers to all of my questions. Over the years, I’ve realized that you can’t prepare for it – it’s not a test you can study for. You will never find the answers in a book. The real answers come with time, patience and love – and Norrin taught me that.