Having a Special Child Can be a Wonderful Experience
But you probably are not going to feel that at the beginning. At first, it seems like a terrible thing that could’ve happened.
When a parent is faced with the fact that the child has physical and mental challenges, the first emotions usually are fear, despair, helplessness, denial, even guilt.
Why is that?
In our case, we were not told directly that Joana is a child with physical and mental challenges.
It was sort of like an assumption from the doctors a few days after she was born. They said that it’s not really clear, they can’t say this for sure, but something looks suspicious. And we probably should take her to a specialist in a month.
But I knew deep down inside me that something was not right. And I remember that the feeling was like someone hit me in the stomach. And at the same time, my body was shaking, and the room was spinning around me as I realized the reality – special needs child.
But why? Why is our initial reaction like that? What is so scary about that fact? Why do we react that way? Is there a specific reason why this seems like the ultimate tragedy?
I can think of several reasons why the general opinion is: Having a special child is terrible and horrifying.
First, there are believes and programs that we carry from our childhood. As kids, we observed the adults and their reactions and comments at things, people, and situations, and that’s how we’ve (unconsciously) formed definitions about what’s normal.
When I was a child, I adopted a program: having whatever handicap is “God forbid.” Simply by observing the adults, how they were commenting on someone that is handicapped or have a child with disabilities, I got the message that it is something really bad and that God should “forbid” this kind of “tragedy” to happen.
Those comments were full of feeling sorry for the handicapped person and their close family. And were full of assumptions told in their name, like “Of course, Laila’s kid cannot go to normal school. How could he? Oh, poor Laila”. Or, “They cannot plan long trip. You know, because their daughter can’t…….” whatever.
Generally, I got the idea that having a healthy child is “normal” and living like a special need’s person is “not normal.”
Now I know that what is considered “normal” is actually debatable.
Second, we have the feeling that we control everything that is happening in our life. That’s why most of us develop rigid beliefs, hoping that they will help us live in predicted lines and boundaries that we create in our lives.
Every time something happens to us that we have no control of, we see it as a tragedy. We see it as a failure and lack of capability to control things.
That happens especially when we live unconsciously and react by habit. Of course, life has its ways to prove us wrong and to show us that not just that we can’t control everything, but that we shouldn’t focus on controlling things. Instead, we should focus on flexibility and be capable of adjusting. Dr. Bruce Lipton says, “Rigid beliefs create challenges.” That means that flexibility and the ability to adjust create solutions.
Third, we are inclined to compare ourselves to others. We see our friends and relatives with healthy children, and then we get something else, and we think, “Is this too much to ask?”. Here we can talk again about what is “normal.” Our programs tell us that only a healthy child is a normal child. If we are convinced that something is not too much to ask, but we still don’t have that, naturally, we feel injustice and as we do not have a fair chance for happiness like everyone.
Fourth, we are overwhelmed with fear that our special child will suffer. We think that our child will see itself from our point of view. So, if we are sad that our child is special, we are sure that it will be sad in the same way too. But they are not. They are not focused on their limitations. They are happy and curious, like any other baby.
They may be like that for a long time, but if the parents are nervous, stressed, sad, and feel guilt all the time, eventually, it would reflect on them too. Children are always picking up the energy we emit.
Fifth, it depends on which country you live in the moment. How does your culture see persons with disabilities? Is the state involved in helping and supporting families with special children? Are there safe sidewalks and public transport appropriate for persons with disability? Are disabilities taboo in that country, or there are open discussions about inclusion and what can be done in public interest that would provide best conditions possible for this person? If you don’t have positive answers to these questions, chances are that this will add to your negative emotions.
These are the reasons that come on top of my mind.
Well, having a special child or living with any disability is not abnormal. At this moment, there are roughly 650 million people worldwide that live with a disability. That tells us that it’s time to change our definition for “normal” child, normal man/woman, normal family, and so on. Not just that we need to change it, but we don’t require a label of that kind at all. How about the term “different”?
We don’t need labels to describe parenting experiences, for every parenting experience is worthy.
Suppose we feel negative emotions from comparing our experience with the “having healthy child” experience. In that case, we should ask ourselves if this is a completely appropriate comparison? Are we sure that we can be happy only if we have a healthy child?
Are we sure that all parents who have a healthy child live happily and fulfill lives, free of challenges?
Are we sure that all parents who have a healthy child live happily and fulfill lives, free of challenges? Are we sure that they are full of gratitude and appreciation all the time? Is having a healthy child the only condition for happiness? I don’t think so. And this only proves that happiness and joyful life are only states of mind and have not so much to do with conditions and situations.
What if this is the best thing that could’ve happened? What if, because of this experience, we will read more, understand more, be more compassionate and be a better person for ourselves and the world?
What if this experience makes us go on amazing trips, we would never have thought of going? What if we serve together (our child and us) to a greater cause of getting the experts to push their limits of knowledge and find cures for generations to come?
How can we not think that special parenting is a wonderful experience when, to provide the best care, therapy, hospitals, researches…. we are pushed so far from our comfort zones that our personal growth and expansion are inevitable?