If you're a parent of kids with special needs, there are many times when our stories are of our sorrows and challenges. But we also have to remember that certain moments are daily gifts that help us realize we all gain and give strength every day. Sometimes we forget to remind ourselves. Sometimes we can forget to tell others.
As a parent to a son with special needs, it can be easy to regret certain things. But not everything about autism is sad. Some of it is inspiring. Some of it is funny. And there are definitely good things about raising a child with autism.
But thanks to my son, Marky, here are 12 things that I will never regret learning from my years of raising him.
- Perspective - There are so many more things to think about that really matter, and I have reminded of this daily, even hourly. Sure, your kid made it into the Honors Program, but mine slept through the night. Sleep is crucial in my life; honors, well, that's debatable.
- Flexibility - I've learned not to rely on a plan. A child with special needs doesn't really grasp that, and being flexible is what really matters. My plan to go to the supermarket can easily turn into a trip to an arcade, then the dollar store, park, and bathroom. The milk and butter will have to wait!
- Simplicity - The mantra that less is more is so true in our home. Gift lists are short, name brands are unknown, and "cool" kids and "cool" things don't matter.
- Honesty - I have yet to meet a child with autism who knows how to lie. Our son is so pure -- he speaks what he knows; nothing less, nothing more.
- Affection - The hugs and ability to cuddle do not go away. I am always welcome into my son's world. He doesn't even roll his eyes at me!
- Multitasking - At any given moment, there may be a crisis and it may "only" be that Marky's Nintendo DSi charger is missing, but it doesn't matter. As his mom, I will manage to find it while also making dinner, getting laundry done, and arranging carpools for the other kids. It is quite a workload, but I get things done!
- Assertiveness/Advocacy – I am the VOICE for my son, which has given me confidence to step up in ways I never thought was capable. I no longer care who I have to speak to or if they are going to like what I have to say .
- Appreciation - I appreciate everything that Marky teaches my husband and me -- for the gifts he gives us, for the way he sees things, and for the balance he provides. I cannot emphasize enough how our son'sway of living brings me to a better place.
- Patience – This is a big one. Kids on the spectrum often need and want what they want when they want it. They do not take into account everything else around them. It is NOT their fault, and it usually requires me to say the same thing OVER and OVER again. I do not lose my patience as quickly, but this is NOT always easy.
- Intuition - I learned to trust myself! Trusting your intuition is hardly ever wrong; your gut will know what to do.
- Teaching and Reaching Others - What an impact parents with special-needs kids can make! With social media, the range is even larger; we have the ability to offer help others and become friends. So many learn from us and so many even think we are a little extra special, which, as we all know, is true!
- Awareness - When I am out, I am so much more clued into the kids and families around me. I am not quick to judge, and I am kinder when I see a child having a meltdown or a mom struggling in the park with her child or in the supermarket on line. Maybe the dad with his son is struggling and doing his best. I remind myself: Take a breath. It will be ok.
There is no time to have regrets, not when we look at what we gain in raising our kids, like the things we share and the children we are so lucky to raise. I take nothing for granted.
Carissa Garabedian is a married mom of three children and two Shih Tzus who loves to cook and leave food on her friends' doorsteps. She is also the founder of KnowDifferent.net, a site focused on resources for special needs kids and families to create a sense of community. Follow her on Twitter @knowdifferent and on Facebook.
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