Finding the right therapist is real tricky. Humans willing to take your money to speak words and encourage you to speak back are a dime a dozen. But a human who sees you, understands you, and isn’t afraid to put you right in you place with an occasional and appropriately dropped “F bomb?” Worth all the dollars. We have one of those humans and he drops truth every time we park our butts in his downtown office. But this post isn’t about therapy, so I’ll get to what he actually said that altered my thinking about special needs parenting. And perhaps just plain ole’ parenting too.
For the first 8 months my husband and I sat in Clint’s office, we talked about special needs parenting and the little man who takes up so much of our energy. We might have mentioned other topics in passing, but that was the bulk of where our differences and frustrations stemmed from. We handle this role so dramatically different and with that comes communication mis-steps, resentment, exasperation, exhaustion, lack of energy for each other…I’ll just stop there. Regular parenting is hard enough on a marriage. Throw in a Mama who performs uncoordinated triple back flips to make things “work” and a Dad who doesn’t back flip at all? Trouble. Clint was brilliant at pointing out each of our “deficiencies” and gifts within our roles as well as dig into why we each respond the ways we do. He also didn’t hesitate to gently look me in the eyeballs and challenge my assumptions. A few months ago I was explaining how exhausting it was to do ALL the research and ALL the advocating and ALL the back bends for the sake of my son. He looked at me, wide eyed and said,
“But who are you doing all this for? Rylan is pure joy just the way he is and hasn’t asked you for anything more.”
Nagasaki. Session over. It literally was. I had nothing else.
It’s astonishing tomy always racing mind how simple things became with one person uttering 23 words strung together in one space in one time. This isn’t true for every parent’s journey, but we are gifted with a son who radiates joy. Not because he has a comfortable bed with a weighted blanket. Or because he has the best formulated IEP tax payer money can buy. Or because he’s enrolled in robotics club with his ABA therapist by his side for support. Or because we go to museums on sensory mornings when it’s quiet and easier to navigate. Or because I quit my career to be his best mom. Rylan is JOY aside from everything my back bends allow him the freedom to experience. He is JOY because that’s how God created him to be. All the effort I put into his life does help him get by a bit easier and affords him more opportunities, but he didn’t ask me to do any of it. He just wants me to sit on the carpet and play the tedious game of WAR. He wants me to go on a hike to Imagination Island and make up names for all the looming trolls under the bridges. He’s totally cool laying in bed, looking out his window and choosing which stars we’ll inhabit when we get to heaven. Really, the kid just wants permission to play Minecraft all day every single day and catch invisible Pokemons in the backyard. So many Pokemons. The things our son wants aren’t exhausting or tedious or conflict causing. His JOY doesn’t put us in therapy. He just wants to be himself and be loved for it.
As special needs parents and often times parents in general, it’s almost impossible to remember that it can be that simple. We do and we do and we do until we collapse in all our doing. We go and go and register them and find therapy after therapy and run them thin and run ourselves ragged. But do we ever ask ourselves who it’s all for? Who asked for it all? Because when the answer isn’t obvious, it might just be time to sit on the floor.