How did I get here?
I drove back toward home after school drop-off Friday morning, Ricochet still in my car, tears streaming down my cheeks the same as the rain flowing down my windshield. I tried to keep my overwhelming sadness a secret, but the more I thought of the events of that morning, the more the tears grew. “Why didn’t I deserve a ‘normal’ life?” I thought. Why was this my life?
When it all goes wrong.
An hour earlier, I gently opened Ricochet’s bedroom door. He popped up, instantly screaming, “I don’t want to go to school! I’m not going today!”
We’ve been here before. Many times before. But not lately. I was taken aback, but stayed calm.
“Buddy, you know you have to go to school,” I said. “You only had a three day week, and today’s the last day. You can do this.”
“No. I’m not going.”
I proceeded with my usual interrogation to try to figure out what was making him uncomfortable at school this week. When we can resolve the underlying issue, he goes to school without incident.
This time he wasn’t interested in talking about what’s bothering him.
My frustration grew to a boiling point. I was willing to work with him to ensure his comfort and safety at school, yet, this morning, he wasn’t willing to work with me. Helplessness ensued and anger began to build.
At that moment though, I had to get my daughter to school, and on time. I had to get Ricochet to put on clothes so that we could run her to school. His instant response to every command was refusal. That is until I finally snapped and demanded that he get in the car in a loud and stern voice. Ok, I was yelling. A clock ticking, coupled with a sense of helplessness, leads to that sometimes. I’m only human.
As I drove to the high school I felt a little relief that my daughter would be on time. She was frazzled and stressed, but not tardy. Relief until we passed the turn to Ricochet’s school we’d usually take on the way. The intersection was a reminder of all our shameful family secrets. Our hidden battles. My own failures.
I was able to hold the tears back while she was still sitting next to me in the front seat. As soon the car door closed behind her at the high school curb, the tears were instantaneous. Overwhelming.
That’s when the why-me negative self-talk began. Why didn’t I deserve a normal life? What did I do to deserve this stress? Why do I have to be a parent that feels the deep sadness of failing to give your kids a happy childhood?
[Tweet “Why don’t I deserve a normal life? The stress of parenting #ADHD #autism is real.”]
That low point was not typical of me. Usually I’m able to stay strong, see the small glimpses of gratitude and joy in our lives. I’m strong and resolute. I understand my child’s unique needs, and I am able to keep myself composed.
We all fall apart at times though. And that’s okay. That’s why I’m sharing this glimpse of my life that most would be too ashamed to share — to illustrate that we all fall apart at times. What counts is that we get back up again. We get up, and we go back to shining.
And the answer to my question? Why didn’t I deserve a normal life? If we think of this special parenthood in terms of “deserving” it somehow, the stress and struggle, we have taken the wrong perspective. No, I don’t have some past transgressions that parenting a child with special needs is some sort of penance for. I’m just the right person for the job.
This special parenthood is is a blessing when I’m in the right frame of mind. It’s made me stronger, more resilient, more compassionate. It made me a better human being overall. That is what I should be wondering how I earned.