Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs out there. Not only are we responsible for the well-being of little people who are completely dependent upon us, we do it all without knowing for years down the road whether or not we’ve ‘done good’. And when you’re the parent of a child with higher needs, you tend to worry even more.
I’m a mommy to four children, each with varying degrees of special needs. As soon as the Holiday Season begins, I start reflecting on the past year-the ups and downs; the highs and lows; the good, the bad and the ugly-so I can figure out how to make things different, better or easier for each of them in the year to come. This year, I’ve added a few parenting resolutions to my list. Here are my ‘top five’:
1) Learn to let go. As parents, we are predisposed to feel guilty, especially us moms. But holding onto things, especially negative feelings and self-blame, is of no benefit to anyone. Next year I promise to take on what I can handle, deal with the things I can then let the rest go.
2) Laugh and play more. There is an old saying that laughter is the best medicine. When you’re raising a child with special needs, it can be difficult at times to see beyond the stress and worry. Finding something in the chaos to make you smile does more than cheer you up; it also helps you see the ‘good stuff’ that’s going on too as well as keeps your perspective on the positive side. I promise to laugh and play more-with and without my children.
3) See more ‘Can Do’s’. Through meetings with teachers, school administrators, therapists and other professionals, caregivers of special needs children hear a lot about what their children struggle with. And your child is constantly reminded of these ‘can’t do’s’ in school, with their friends and others. I want my children to be proud of all the fantastic things they CAN do so I promise to encourage each of their ‘Can Do’s’ to shine brightly and do more work on helping others see all sides of my children.
4) Fit in ‘Me Time’. One thing I realized this past year is that absorbing myself completely in my children’s issues isn’t healthy. All parents need that bit of time to delve into favorite activities, visit a special friend or just have quiet/still time. For caregivers of children with higher needs, this ‘Me Time’ is even more essential. It can be very stressful and emotionally draining caring for your child and if you don’t take time to recoup, regroup and recharge-even for just a 15 minute walk-negativity can move in a take over. I promise to take more ‘Me Time’ so I can be the best parent I can be to my children.
5) Learn from my children. My beautiful children have taught me many things: that there are different ways to do one thing; that there are different ways to communicate, show love and enjoy life; that we each see the world through different eyes and, therefore, experience it in a unique way and that no one is perfect. I’m going to listen-truly listen-to my children when they share their views, experiences and stories with me. They still have many things to teach me.
Above all else, I think what I’m going to do more of in the New Year is enjoy the time I have with my children while they’re still small. Life goes by so fast and I don’t want to waste a moment I have left with them. My only wish for them for now is to thrive, do their best and be everything they can be. And I’m going to enjoy each and every step.