In the 28th of our series, our mom of three kids, Emily, Grant and Lynn, evaluates what she wishes she knew before adopting kids with special needs, and what she’s glad she didn’t know.
Things I wish I’d known before adopting special needs kids:
- I can’t provide everything my kids need, and I can’t be every person my kids need. I’d waited so long to become a mom, so how come I didn’t automatically know everything? I’d read all the books, watched all the movies and witnessed enough parent/child conflict in the grocery store, that I should know what and what not to do. I wish I’d asked for help earlier. And I wish I’d kept my mouth shut and not said things like, “My kids will never (fill in the blank). Or, “I’ll never go out of the house looking like that.”
- Instead of trying to “fix” my child, I would have to change my behaviour to better cope with her. I wish I’d really understood what that meant.
- I would change from being the mom in the back of the crowd, to the mom pushing her way to the front of the line to advocate for what my kids need. I wish I could have made that change sooner. I never thought I could be that assertive.
- How I am a better parent when I take time for me. Not just that three-minute shower in the morning, but to go for a walk alone, have coffee with a friend, or go to bed early and read (with my earplugs in).
Things I’m glad I didn’t know before adopting special needs kids
- How “visible” invisible disabilities are. My child’s behaviour, and my response to her behaviour, make us very visible in the community. However, to others, she looks just like every other kid on the playground, and I look like the over-controlling mother who won’t let her kid just be a kid. Wherever we go, I feel as if I’m being judged on my parenting.
- How quickly a three-year-old child can change me into the Wicked Witch of the West in three-minutes flat.
I used to think of myself as a patient person, but my kids can suck that out of me quickly. It’s as if they have masterminded a diabolical plot to overthrow the current parenting regime and can activate it whenever they wish.
- How mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting it is to schedule and attend so many appointments. With therapists, doctors, speech pathologists, social workers, teachers, and other professionals. Could just one of my children be typical? Apparently not.
- How some family and friends that I thought were supportive of our adoptions were not. And how much time and energy I would put into trying to make my child behave in a way they would find acceptable. No matter what I do, these people will find fault with us.
Overall, it seems I wasn’t really all that prepared for parenting special needs kids, but I seem to be struggling through. Can anyone really be completely prepared for parenting? I doubt it. But that’s probably a good thing. If we actually knew how tough it was going to be, would any of us be parents?
Thankfully, there are enough good moments, or enough potential for good moments in the future, to hang in there.
I can’t write anymore. I sense there is a coup about to overthrow the current reigning tyrant (that would be me). I must fortify my supporters (that would be me) with coffee and chocolate before going into battle. Wish me luck.