I am a mom to 3 beautiful children.
Before I had kids, I thought my parenting style would be one like you see so many jokes about. I would be so strict and careful with my oldest. My over protectiveness would ease as time went on, and by the time my third child came along they could get away with anything.
In our house, this was not the case. As my kids were born, different issues arose so by the time Declan came along, I had to provide him with the most care and attention as he has developmental delays.
During my time as a mom, I transitioned from a mom to a special needs mom.
I have had to change my style, perception and outlook.
Not everything is bad behavior
Before, if a child was bad, a child was disciplined. Now, not everything can be seen as bad behavior. Some is, yes. Hitting is always bad and will be a time out.
I must look twice. Is it a temper tantrum or a meltdown? Was he trying to engage play or did he just walk up and hit someone? Is he making a mess or sensory seeking? I have to look at a behavior, offer alternatives, offer support and discipline when deemed appropriate.
Declan and I hold hands when we are out in the world. If the area we are in has a higher degree of danger, I hold Declan by the wrist or forearm. Declan is a big boy and almost too heavy to carry. He is 5 years old and over 50 pounds. As he has grown, I have learned that I could not let him walk alone – he is unaware of safety issues and has run into unsafe situations. He can get out of holding my hand pretty quick. So if I we are walking a short distance, down a sidewalk or in a parking lot, Declan will offer me his wrist to hold.
I am not alone. I have noticed other wrist holders of happy children. And I recognize the need to protect our special person from the danger they do not see.
I can amuse myself pretty well.
As my older two children aged, eventually I could take them to a playground and sit on the bench and watch them play. I can no longer do that.
I am not a parent that can sit on the sidelines. I must be next to Declan at all times. Everywhere he goes. A situation can go bad SO FAST. I cannot read a magazine or play on my phone. I must always be alert, aware and in the moment. To do this, I must keep myself occupied.
I noticed another mother just like me at the beach this summer. She was standing in the ocean just passed her ankles. She was dancing subtly. A little bit of a sway with a kick of the hip, clicking her tongue to a beat she was singing in her head. Every so often she reached down and took her son by the arm and moved him back about a foot. Her son must have been around 12 years old and enjoyed sitting criss-cross applesauce, rocking back and forth, playing in the sand and water. Every so often a wave would pull him in some more, or he would roll a little forward. The mom stopped her dance, took her son by the arm and moved him back. She amused herself this way for a good hour so her son could enjoy the ocean.
I am a travelling Occupational Therapist.
There is not a fold up chair in the back of my car for me to sit and watch my children’s sporting events or practices. I have a sensory bag of bubbles, chalk, kinetic sand, lollipops to calm an anxious child. I bring a sensory box of rice, dried beans and toys. Anything and everything to keep a fidgety running sensory seeking child occupied.
These items are ready to go. Not just for sporting events. All the time.
Of course this is not an all-inclusive list. On a high level, this is how I see my parenting behavior has changed. As a special needs parent I am always on alert. My house is messier and gets broken a lot – I didn’t have curtains for years as Declan enjoyed pulling them down bringing the curtain rods and all. Yet, as things appear to get more stressful or harder, I feel calmer.
Transitioning into special needs parenthood, I realized what was important to me in raising my kids.
Our family is safe, happy, healthy and whole. That is perfect to me.