There’s a great quote I can’t find that goes something like this: “Before I had children I had a few strong opinions. Now I have a few children and no opinions.” Wise words indeed. But even more true for those of us raising special needs children. For we never imagined the complexities and situations we find ourselves in. My dad has always told me not to tempt God to prove you wrong. These days, I find these to be even wiser words. 😉
Here are the seven things I swore I’d never do – before having a special needs child:
1. Have an un-toilet-trained child over the age of two. Now, stop laughing at me. It’s most unbecoming you know. Seriously, my late and beloved grandmother was a firm believer that all children should be potty-trained by the age of one. No, really. And both of her children were. She didn’t work outside the home at the time, and she spaced her non-special needs children seven years apart. So, yes, she had the opportunity to use training techniques that many today would call “intuitive” or “listening to the child’s cues”, etc. It worked for her. So, I was of the opinion that we would early train as well. Yeah, life is funny like that.
2. Allow my child to sleep in my bed. I have all kinds of strong, yet useless opinions about sleep schedules and the importance of parents having a sacred space. I’m serious about that laughing. You really must stop. Our NT daughter was a good sleeper. And, despite (or because?) of being a precocious little imp, she actually took two naps a day for us up until almost three. And I am one of those obnoxious individuals who rarely needs a nap, falls asleep easily, wakes using a mental alarm clock, and doesn’t drink coffee. So, my son’s sleep issues have probably been the hardest thing for me to adjust to. Because I am so quickly alert, it is virtually impossible for me to go back to sleep once awakened. And Callum was still waking approximately 4 times a night well past two years of age. In light of my strong views, it’s kind of ironic that some of my favorite memories of him are the ones of us awake together in my bed, snuggling and quietly watching Yo Gabba Gabba in the wee hours of the night until he fell asleep again. I have no idea what his future will bring, but I cherish every moment of that now while I can.
3. Allow a child over the age of one to drink out of a bottle. Yes, my son can drink out of a cup with a straw and uses a sippy cup. But he still wants to snuggle with me on my lap – and drink out of a bottle. We confine this to home now. But he is such a little sensory seeker that he craves this – touching my face, running his little hands and feet over my arms and legs, and pulling my hands to him to squeeze him. And I’m a wimp to his happiness. So, there you go.
4. Bring an electronic entertainment device into a restaurant. Oh, I well remember my haughty disapproval of this. I could not believe that some parents would allow their children to tune out others at a dining table and not learn good manners. Now I carry my iPhone or an iPad everywhere I go. It helps him tune out the background and focus– and us to catch a quick meal. I know I should be teaching him social skills, but he isn’t there yet. And I’m not willing to let him scream his head off in a restaurant. There are people there without special-needs children- with their own stresses- who need a quiet meal too.
5. Allow my young children to watch TV. I still don’t really approve of this in theory. But I’m tired. And no one has sent in backup. Nuff said.
6. Share my son’s diagnosis. I used to think that it would do him a disservice. Now I think the disservice is not preparing his path in the world by helping the world to understand him. So I tell anyone I think needs to know at any time.
7. Discuss my most private hurts, missteps, and worries in public. I know that seems strange to hear for those of you who don’t know me personally. But, in my day-to-day life, I am actually a fairly restrained person. I don’t curse in public. I’m pretty modest in my dress. I’m so ridiculously afraid of embarrassing myself in front of others that I don’t even dance. My friends have long amused themselves and shared stories of various pranks on their part to embarrass me by calling out my name on an intercom or poking fun at my need to be ladylike. And you should have seen my horrified reaction when my husband decided to apologize for an argument on Facebook. I’m not a prude (though an enormous fan of Miss Manners), but I am of the opinion that there are just some things one does not do in public if one has any class at all. Blame the southern belle in me. But I’m also of the opinion that if you are going to do something, you should do it with gusto. I think this blog qualifies, don’t you? 😉