Parenting a child with autism is exhausting. It leaves parents with much bigger challenges than we ever thought we would have to endure in our parenting years. It comes with heartache and I can tell you multiple stories on that subject alone. However, it also comes with pure joy. Yes, that’s right, I said joy! Now don’t get me wrong; I have had my days and nights where I have cried countless tears and guess what? Five years on this journey and I am still crying. I don’t cry every day, nor do I cry every week, but the heartache and tears are still there and they are not going away. It’s just part of the journey.
But, there is lots of joy on this rollercoaster ride. The joy that we experience is taken to a level that most parents of typical children know nothing about and that’s because of the heartache we experience before the joy.
As special needs parents, we know the heartache of watching our children live a life full of challenges–challenges that range anywhere from cognitive, physical, social impairment, and sensory processing challenges to speech impairments and much more. Nonetheless, we go throughout our day experiencing those challenges firsthand. We get so accustomed to those challenges that we don’t even realize the heartache we experience because of them, until the moment comes that takes all our sorrow and tears away.
It could be hearing your child say your name for the first time in months. It might be watching your child take his first steps after years of hard work. Honestly, it could even be watching your child enter a store without a meltdown for the first time. Those moments are the moments we live for as special needs parents. Those are the moments that take our breath away and make us appreciate the joys that come along with special needs parenting.
I am all too familiar with how easily the joy can be forgotten when the struggles take over. I know how frustrating it can be when you know your child can do something but his disability just simply won’t let him that day. I know! I understand! I walk that walk with your every single day. Nonetheless, let’s not forget how we feel in that moment when our child makes the tiniest milestone feels like the biggest accomplishment ever!
That heartache that you’ve been experiencing is not fun, to say the least. However, it makes that joyful moment feel that much better! It makes all the hours of therapy… all the sleepless nights… all the tears… all the heartache worth it. It humbles us. It softens our hearts. It makes us a better person.
If I can leave you with anything from this, it is to remember that there are others out there just like you. There are countless other families who cry those same tears every day. They, too, reach that same emotional peak when that small milestone is reached. If anyone understands that feeling, it is you and me. We are special needs parents. We take the good along with the bad and make the most of it. It is, after all, all that we can do.