The truth about being the perfect special needs parent?
There isn’t one. Seriously, there is no such thing as a perfect parent, much less the perfect special needs parent. I should know – I’ve spent years trying to live up to this nonexistant ideal. Because these amazing guys? They really needed perfection. Seriously.
Who else but a perfect parent would be able to understand their many nuances, challenge them, love them, push them, adore them, be everything to them?
What I found?
Is that I couldn’t.
The flu taught me trying to be perfect is a sickness itself
Over the last week, I’ve had the flu. Nasty, horrible, so weak I couldn’t get out of bed for days … and I worried about so many little things anyway … and then I found myself picking apart the appointments I still needed to make, an appointment I realized we had missed … I was so upset when I realized we missed this appointment, so embarrassed when I considered having to speak with that office and explain that I had forgotten to add the appointment to my calender.
I ended up so upset over this horrible, inexcusable mistake on my part that I called my husband into the room … the one with social anxiety issues … and begged him to call the office for me. Of course, he looked at me like I had grown two heads.
The fact is … I messed up. I do it sometimes, you know … I’m not perfect – by any stretch of the imagination. As much as I intellectually know that being perfect is vastly overrated, I still find myself wanting to be that mom anyway.
You know what I mean … the mother who magically handles all the appointments, all the social engagements, all the dinners and laundry and yes, even the dishes … and still has the perfect attitude about their child asking a million questions … over and over and over …
I feel the sting of that shortcoming. I still hurt deep inside, because I want to be the perfect mother for them. I want to be the best example of a parent for these amazing guys.
I want to be all things … everything … that they need
Is that I’m a little broken inside. I do the best I can … but sometimes …
- I forget things
- I yell when I should be more patient
- I beg for “no more questions” after that hundredth question and wince when it’s asked anyway
- I don’t get the dishes done for days at a time
- Laundry? You mean that pile of non-moving almost-living clothing that’s taking over the laundry room? Yeah … not moving
- I pick the easy road instead of the one we should be walking (constant correction is tiring, after all)
- I’m not perfect.
Being a special needs parent is tiring
For years, I have juggled specialist appointments, therapy appointments, research, work (when able), school (when mostly sane), and the nuances of four, not three, with special needs in this house. Four, because I’m lying to myself if I don’t count my husband’s needs in there. (I’m not honest enough to count myself as number five…but that is another post!)
The truth is this.
As many times as I make peace with the fact that I can’t be a perfect parent, a perfect special needs parent … it is still something that haunts me. My identity is caught up in how well I parent my kids, and after all these years I still don’t ever feel like I do that as well as I should.
Finding Peace in Imperfection
We all want to be special enough, strong enough, wise enough, patient enough, to feel like we are perfect enough … to handle the storms of life.
We can’t be. It isn’t possible.
It is, however, possible to admit that, to lean on others. Perhaps my own greatest weakness, the thing that stops me from being the kind of parent I want to be … is the simple fact that leaning on someone else is exceedingly hard for me to do. Essential, though … it is essential to being the best parent we can be.
I find support in my faith (yeah, it’s shaken a bit but that’s okay too), I find support in my husband and even in my kids, and I find support in writing, in being … in being just good enough to make it through one day at a time.
And when that isn’t enough, when writing about life doesn’t grant me the peace, when praying about my fears and shortcomings doesn’t help me find serenity … I turn to those who understand. And I find comfort in those who don’t understand, but care anyway.
Life isn’t about being the perfect parent, or the perfect special needs parent, no matter how much I might sometimes think otherwise … no, it’s about finding the strength to back away from perfection sometimes.
It’s about remembering that sometimes we find our greatest measure of peace in allowing someone else to be strong for us for a little while.
What about you?
Do you try to live up to the idea of being perfect?
Are you the mother or father of special needs kids who sometimes, just sometimes, feels overwhelmed because you just can’t do it all well enough?
I know that some don’t like to use the term special needs parent but I think it’s apt – because we end up living so much of our lives trying to live up to the challenges of those special needs–whatever diagnoses make them up–that we cease to be just a mom or just a dad any longer.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this – do you feel like being a special needs parent is a challenge, a reward, something to dry and be perfectly?