Often, upon informing an acquaintance that I’m a parent of a child with special needs, the person I’m introducing myself too will respond with, "God gives special children to special parents." You may have received a similar comment, or you may even have said those words to someone you’ve met who is such a parent.
I will typically smile and say nothing, or maybe say, "Thank you." I know people mean such a statement as a compliment. I get it. I really do. and some may think it’s a form of solace. But for me, it’s neither.
Firstly, children with special needs are no more likely to have great parents than other children. I think most of us who have been in the disability community for any length of time have seen parents and/or parenting that wasn’t particularly special. In our son’s early years of program attendance in Florida, he had a classmate who sometimes came to school with s**t in her hair, literally. God did not give her special parents.
Over the years, there have been horrendous reports of children with special needs who have been badly abused and neglected, locked in closets or chained to a bed in the basement. The stories are heart wrenching. These children were certainly not fortunate enough to have good, caring parents, let alone special parents.
and I don’t find it particularly comforting to think that my good parenting instincts were rewarded by being singled out to face the life-long challenges of raising and caring for a child with special needs. I am, however, comforted by the sincere statements complimenting the quality of care we’re providing. I graciously admit to being a good parent.
The main point I want to make is that I don’t feel that we’re special. We love our child unconditionally, regardless of flaws. We do our best to provide for him the things that he needs. But so do all good parents. We have challenges. All parents have challenges. It comes with the territory. Our challenges are different and they may be life-long, but they aren’t necessarily tougher. We will never have to deal with peer pressure, teenage pregnancy, addiction, teen driving, depression, or suicide. Parenting is not easy, regardless of the nature of the child. We accept the challenges because he is our child, and that’s what parents do.
However, there are parents out there that I do consider special. These are the individuals who adopt children with special needs. They are willing to step up and provide the love and the care, to face the challenges, for children not of their own making. To me, that takes something very special. It’s a rare quality, and I applaud them. I bestow on them the title of "special." Though I’m guessing they don’t think of themselves that way, and that’s part of what makes them special in my book.