Minion Monday – Taking the Plunge, a guest post from The Special Reds
Taking the Plunge
Parenting special needs children reminds me of climbing a steep mountain. Standing at the bottom, you feel quite small, overwhelmed, lost, and scared. You know there is no way around this mountain. The only way to reach the destination for your child is by climbing step by step up that mountain. But sometimes deciding to take that first step is the hardest one.
I remember standing at the bottom of my mountain, my journey, 10 years ago. I remember exactly how I felt when a neighbor told me she thought my daughter had autism; how I cried and cried, holding my daughter in my arms, completely scared of what to do next. How I mentioned this to our pediatrician soon after, and how he referred me to an early intervention class. I remember walking into that room, seeing the needs of the other children, and only staying 5 minutes because I was overcome by the fear of what my daughter’s future might hold, of what my life might now become. I wasn’t ready to take my first step on the mountain as her parent. In the following months, I turned away therapists that were coming to our home, and discharged her from crucial services because I was in such denial that anything could be wrong. I knew there was a mountain looming above me, but at the time, I thought I could go around it, because nothing was wrong with my perfect child.
I finally took that first step when I heard about sensory processing disorder, and knowing deep in my heart that this had to be her diagnosis. I willingly called an occupational therapist for an evaluation, and went to another one after that, because the first one didn’t seem right for my daughter. I was starting to develop that intuition that all parents of special needs children have, where it’s like a voice is guiding you to all the right doctors and therapists, where one doctor leads to another, and another. Once I gained knowledge about her diagnosis, and how to treat it, I began racing up that mountain, as fast as I could, gaining so much knowledge and support that nothing could stop me now. I thought that once I reached the top, everything would be better. The closer I got, the faster I ran. That beautiful view was coming, the end of my struggles as a parent. She’s going to be okay, I can do this.
But then she wasn’t okay when I reached the top. She still needed more help.
Being a special needs parent isn’t just climbing one mountain, I realized. Once you climb one, it only brings you to the edge of a steep cliff, where you can celebrate briefly this victory, but then the only way out is down, plunging into the depths of the unknown water below. You look down, thinking how can this be? I thought we’d made it, finally! I’ve already come so far with my child! How can there still be more to do? You then see another mountain ahead, past the water, and so you jump down, treading mysterious waters, searching for answers again, until you reach the next mountain to climb.
You can’t be a special needs parents without taking plunges, without immersing yourself in the experience. You have to put your whole self into it, eyes wide open, not fearing anything. And as you do this, you will also realize that your child for whom you have been searching for answers to all your questions, fears, and worries, was climbing that mountain right along side you the whole time. This journey is just as frightening at times for our children, because we are asking our them to go outside their comfort zones and push a little harder than they really want to. We do this because we know that’s the only way they will reach the top of the mountain, too, and discover the next challenge in their path to overcome.
I feel honored and blessed to walk side by side up the mountain with my child, learning how to help navigate her life in a world that must seem terrifying. I will continue to climb every mountain with her, and to plunge into unknown waters with her, because she is worth it. And the more I am willing to take the plunge, the more I can heal as her mother.