A piece by Ellen Stumbo....
"Perhaps some of us special needs parents have snapped, yelled, spit, or barked at friends or family, leaving them utterly confused about our behavior. Who can blame them for thinking, “Well that’s the last time I talk to her!” “What’s wrong with him?” “Is his disability sarcasm? He is so rude!” “Every time I talk to her I’m walking on eggshells!”
Someone googled, “Why are special needs parents hard to get along with.” And well, I don’t blame them for feeling that way…sometimes.
So let me start by saying that yes, sometimes, we are hard to get along with. If you caught us on a bad day, I could see why you turn around and walk away the next time you see us. But that is not the whole story. Yes, sometimes we can be abrasive and rude and sarcastic and hard to get along with…but there is a reason.
You see, so much of the world sees our kids as unlovable, as people without value, as a burden. Even the professionals that are supposed to be on our team can unfortunately communicate that our children’s lives have less meaning, and those messages might even come from the people who are close to us, like family or friends.We feel so alone, but if we don’t fight for our kids then who will?
And we fight, we fight so hard for our children to be included, to be considered, to be given a chance. We are on the defensive, constantly. It’s a battle, a battle that sometimes keeps us up at night, and unfortunately, we have to keep our guard up so often that we forget that there are times when we can put the guard down.
Sometimes we might be hard to get along with. But not always.
I think you would agree that it’s not easy being a parent. Being a special needs parent feels a little bit more challenging.
Would you extend me some grace and know that I have hard days? Will you be willing to forgive the rudeness and the fight? Some days I feel so vulnerable that ugliness comes out, when really, what I need is a friend, someone that I can talk to, someone that will listen, just listen.
And I need to remember that too. I need to extend that same grace to you, because you do not live a life directly impacted by disability, and I cannot expect you to be at the same place of understanding I am at when this is not your life.
I knew so little about parenting children with disabilities when I started this journey. Actually, I knew so little about being a parent before I became a mother! I am still doing the best I can for all my kids, learning, messing up, some days getting things right. Being a special needs parent is not something that anyone can be prepared for. You just have to live it.
So I am sorry if I have ever offended you, it was not my intention. And I need to remember that as well, that you never intended to be offensive either. If I am hard to get along with, please offer me some grace. I will do the same for you. I know I need to extend the same consideration I want to receive back.
I need your friendship, I need your support. And I like to believe that you need mine too, because this giving and taking is part of friendship.
Let’s do some more grace giving, some more forgiving, some more laughing, some more, “No big deal!”
A postscript: Some people are simply mean and inconsiderate human beings who have no qualms at making derogative comments. Well then, you had that coming, nobody messes with our kids."
So. This post. Special Needs parents hard to get along with? Are we really? Occasionally a little over-emotional maybe, crazy-passionate about advocating for our kids here and there...distracted by lack of sleep sometimes, forgetful of the odd birthday or therapy appointment...Oh no, hang on! That's just me ¶:
But I'm not sold on the "hard to get along with" thing. We're a growing community of special needs parents here in our little piece of the world and I'd hardly refer to any one of these people as hard to get along with, especially in a way as described in this article.
Sure we have bad days, you know, like everyone does. Sometimes the unending struggles our kiddo's deal with can dampen the spirits ever so slightly. I know I went through a self-inflicted stage of solidarity...I felt it was inconsiderate of me to burden others with some of the more challenging of Sam's social/anxiety issues so playdates and party invites were regularly and repeatedly graciously declined. The thought of having the hard work a friend has put into her child's birthday party ruined by a puking little dude was as heartbreaking as the thought of strangers thinking badly of my little dude, possibly meeting him for the first time.
(An interesting sidestep about Sam's vomiting in public - most people presume that I've made a poor decision as a parent by taking my sick child out in public, which is also a little troubling. After often being asked if Sam's sick, I now find myself explaining frantically to anyone within earshot that the throwing up is just a result of his high anxiety levels)
But rude? Ugly? Abrasive? I don't believe I've ever been any of these to anyone I might call friend (or stranger for that matter) and having a child with special needs certainly wouldn't give me an excuse to be so. Almost everyone is fighting a battle of some sort, imagine if everyone going through a rough patch adopted this attitude? I've a feeling that if you're prone to snapping, yelling, spitting and/or barking at friends, it's a part of your personality that would be there whether you were parenting a child with special needs or not.
An article like this does worry me a little as it could well deter someone from making a connection with the parent/s of a child with special needs. Of course, I cannot speak on behalf of my own friends who might well consider me hard to get along with...but if this be the case then they're pretty darn awesome friends for sticking with me through it all....