I recently noticed a relatively common yet sad oversight. This time, the oversight came in the form of a consignment sale advertisement. There is a consignment sale that fills an entire warehouse, and usually brings the masses of savvy shopping mothers, hoping to fill their homes with needed (and not so needed) essentials at half the cost. We are talking a lot of people in one building.
To offset some of the chaos, this consignment sale advertised special shopping times for certain groups of people. There was early participant shopping. Understandable, after all, you’ve put in your effort to make this event happen….get your shop on! They have an expectant and new mother shopping time. Oh yes, it is hard to fight the crowds when you have a giant belly, swollen feet, and the bladder capacity of a pea. Totally makes sense.
They then have times for teachers, medical personnel, and a few other groups. It is hard for these people to get to the sale before things are gone. I get that, and I have the greatest respect for ALL of these people. What I did find odd, there was no time set aside for special needs parents.
If we are making plans to make it easier for parents who face unique challenges, why are we not helping special needs parents out?
People don’t see us.
Oh I bet people see us at the store. In my case, they see my kids faces (and the amount of children I have) and they smile a sympathetic smile. Sometimes they make a comment about my hands being full and they move on. So, you “see” the special needs parent….and then you don’t.
There are a majority of special needs families report not attending church anymore, there just isn’t a ministry to help with their circumstances nor congregations who understand(in some places) the abnormal behavior that might disrupt service. They don’t have children who can participate in sports, so you don’t see them there. They have children who see your kid for an hour in PE and then not at all. You don’t see them at school functions. You don’t see them at after school functions, because their kid had a complete meltdown in the living room due to the line on their socks not matching right, and could not be consoled, leading to another missed opportunity for socializing. You don’t see them at the Friday night football game with their kids, because the amount of people and the noise are just too much for their child to handle. Same goes for the birthday parties you don’t see them at…..if their kid even got invited.
You don’t see them because they are at home (or the hospital) taking care of their child. So why would you consider them when making plans for certain parent groups? Why would you give them much thought?
Hopefully you will though. It is a lonely job sometimes, being the one who can’t join in the chatter with other parents while their kids chase a ball around a field with their feet. It is lonely sitting at home listening to the sermon on the television, or leaving the party early due to too much stimuli for your child. It is lonely not being able to talk to someone about your problems without them just giving you sympathy eyes, or thinking you are a horrid person for saying “poop sucks and I don’t want to wipe another butt today!!!” when they haven’t lived in your shoes and cannot possibly understand.
Nobody wants an, “I’m sorry this is your life” discussion. Or the, “oh you are so strong, I don’t see how you do it, I could never.” Nope, this is not what we want. What I want is to be invited. Be understanding if at the last minute I can’t go, but don’t disregard me as a friend and forget about me. Or, be understanding if I do come that I might have to spend my time “guiding” my kid while we chat. I still care about you, I am interested in what you are saying, but at the same time I need to make sure that my kid doesn’t wander off down the street or take a stranger up on a mystery sticker offer. I want church congregations to let me parent my children with the discipline and rules they need, while also understanding that sometimes they have behaviors that might not be normal, and it might disrupt the congregations. Or better yet, for some special needs parents, a place that helps special needs parents with their challenges while still getting to be part of the worship service.
I want a bathroom in a public place that doesn’t require a special needs mother to change her adult sized child on the FLOOR!
If anyone could use a sale on kids clothes, it’s the parents who spend their money on medical equipment, therapies, and a whole host of other very costly things associated with special needs parenting. Things that “regular” people do not consider, because they don’t have to. It’s not their fault, parenting is hard with neuro-typical kids, not a whole lot of time to consider others. I get it.
I think with the rates of autism growing at such an alarming pace, it is time to start seeing the parents who care for kids with extra needs. It is time to start empathizing (not sympathising) with their lives and making an effort to be part of it, even if uncomfortable things happen.