Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Truth of Parenting

I admit it. Being a mom of a child with special needs is exhausting. There is the physical additives of what you have to do to keep your kid safe. But there is a huge addition of the emotional weight of what you are living with, daily.

I admit to appreciating the poem "Welcome to Holland". I also understand why a lot of parents with kids of special needs find themselves despising it.

I do find Elise is a blessing. I would sign up for all of it again in a heartbeat. I love being her mother. I see life differently...in good ways. But I am the first person to say that I would love to be able to go to the bathroom confident that my house won't be destroyed in that 3 minutes. I wish that I could go to Kroger and not be nauseated by the stress that that initiates.

So many people put parents of kids with special needs in one of two boxes: the "good" parents who were blessed and rose to the occasion and the "bad" parents who struggle and are visibly burdened with the day to day.

I submit to you that neither one is true. I guarantee that the "good" parents are still struggling. I guarantee that those parents are still a little shell-shocked that they hit a numbers lottery and are cringing from hitting it again. Because they know it could happen. (Their friends think that God won't continue to test or allow anything else to happen...but that's just not so.) That they screen their friend's words from the supposedly encouraging words "I am so glad God blessed you!"...to "I love you and am impressed by your public strength" and away from "I'm glad it was you and not me".

I submit to you, that the "bad" parents are probably being more honest with themselves and the public that it is not easy. That they need help and support. That they want a day free of their added responsibilities. That they can't do it all by themselves.

I furthermore suggest that parenthood isn't quite as straightforward either. We see the great works of art surrounding the freshly scrubbed sleeping child in their mother's peaceful and beautiful arms. We never see the painting of the child with snot crusties on their nose and cheeks, throwing raw eggs on the floor or happily coloring on the walls...while their un-showered mother is in sweatpants, crying, as she runs 17 loads of laundry. Both are accurate pictures of motherhood, but we aren't so honest about our 11 pm desire to run away from home...

Parenthood isn't the bowl of chocolate-covered strawberries we hope it will be...it's more the over or under ripe kiwi...kinda a gamble on the day to day taste, definitely needing to be peeled of some scary stuff...and when you get the ripe kiwi, you say it tastes just like the strawberries you hoped you'd have...

Parenting the special needs child is more like the coconut on a desert island. If you buy a coconut at the grocery, it is harder to open than a cement brick...if you finally do, it is disgusting and the "meat" is vile and you throw it away...figuring the $1.50 you paid for it was the cost of entertainment for your kids who thought it would be fun, but now won't eat it...but you secretly wish you spent it on a candy bar. On a desert island, the struggle to open it, was just life. The milk is nourishing and tastes like nectar. And the coconut flesh is sweeter than a Mounds bar.

Parenting a special needs child is exhausting. You have to do more than you thought you could. The trivial is lifted to the level of Olympian, and the successes in the boring, are the triumphs of heroes. But the joy is amplified as well. You will fight for every inch of progress, and glory in the journey, not just the results.

I believe that we should be able to get to that point in parenting all kids...but we forget...we are human...

Parenthood isn't like the picture books. Parenthood is scary. Parenthood is beautiful. Parenthood has no answers, just a willingness to ask God for more than you are.


  1. That is beautifully and perfectly said. Let me in turn be boldly honest and say it isn't just the "I'm glad it was you and not me." It is also the fear that if it had been me that it would have been the end of me instead of the begining that you and others like you turn it into. You are like looking at someone with unending patience and envying that but at the same being too terrified of the work it takes to get there. I mean this as a compliment because I have so much respect for your whole family especially on the bad days.

  2. Tiffany,
    My friend, Carrie MacAllaster, sent me the link to your site. I also have four children, one with Down's. Thank you for letting me know that I am not the only one who either has to go to the bathroom with a crowd or risk the house being destroyed.
    :) Jane

  3. I was so inspired by this post, Tiffany. I so agree with the "good parent bad parent" thing. We either try to put ourselves in these catagories, or we put others in them. When in truth, it's not the picture perfect life we imagined and it gets really messy some times.
    I am so proud of your honesty. I hope it's ok that I linked you on my blog.
    Also- I can't imagine the challenges of a special needs child, but I can imagine the truth, love, and heart of the Father that you must feel because of these challenges.
    Thank you for this post!

  4. Tiff, I loved this post! Thank you for being so real and so honest. While I don't have a special needs child, I often struggle parenting...am i doing it right? am i a good enough parent? why don't i seem to be enjoying it as much as XX. I love that you acknowledge that EVERY parent has those hard days and we don't fall into two distinct categories of "perfect" parent and "bad" parent. As in other areas, there seems to be this pressure to act like its all good and yet that is NOT what we are called too as Christians. Love you and so proud of you.

  5. That was so beautiful, Tiffany. For all moms.