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Most little girls, at some point in life, play house.  Pretending to be a mom, they push their perfect little baby dolls around in miniature strollers, acting out the role of protector, provider, defender, teacher, and friend.  The role playing is not only healthy, it’s preparation for what is (hopefully) to come later on in life.  Yet I think it’s safe to say that not many little girls ever assume the role of a special needs mom.  As such, the God-given task at hand, when offered through either birth or adoption, is daunting and overwhelming.  The identity shift is enormous.  One moment you are heads, and the next, you are tails.  The contrast is honestly that stark.  And here are five things you need to know about the moms in your life who are on that journey:

  1. We are scared.  The unknown components of this adventure we’ve been called to traverse terrifies us at our core.    We juggle non-verbal kiddos who are prone to explore,  yet who don’t understand cars, direction, or stranger danger.  Our doors, therefore, display a host of different types of locks while our windows house hidden alarms.  We shudder when we hear news stories of special needs children being abused and mistreated…and we become physically sick, overcome with terror, when one of our own dies at the hand of bullying, a preventable accident, or an onset of sudden illness.  As we age, we think about our child’s future.  A lot.  We work tirelessly to set up a network of people who love them and who accept them, and we dare to dream that all will be ok even when we’re gone.
  2. We feel inadequate.  If you do an internet search on special needs children, you will find hundreds upon hundreds of opinions on what works best for the advancement and progress of our kiddos.  There are enough therapy tools to fill an entire city block.  It’s intimidating.  We’re intimidated.  Our minds play tricks on us as we wonder if we’re doing enough.  Sure, we love enough, but are we implementing the best procedures?  Is it our fault that our child is not making a needed breakthrough?  Most nights we are up late feeling guilty.  Kneeling down beside our sleeping children, we pet their heads, kiss their cheeks, and promise we’ll do more the next day.  And that is our intent.  However, each day brings new challenges, so again, we close our eyes on the day feeling inadequate….wondering why God chose us….hoping we’re enough.
  3. We need family and old friends.  While we may appear too busy or too distracted to enjoy a phone conversation or a visit, it’s true that it takes a village.  If you don’t slow us down, we will work ourselves to the point of exhaustion.  Please hear my heart in this:  You remind us of who we used to be before our identity became “the special needs mom”.  Your familiar voice snaps us back into the awesome reality that life is much bigger than our child learning to potty, communicate, or ride a bike by a certain age.   You are a gift to us in more ways than you can imagine.  Not only do we need to hear your voice, we need your smiles and hugs.  We need your presence.  If we make it, and Good Lord, we have to make it, a large part of that will be because of you.  So if you have a spare minute, call us or text us just so we’ll remember….because when you avoid us and when you’re silent, we forget.
  4. Sometimes people are cruel.  When we go out into public, we are painfully aware that we are taking a risk.  Because we’ve all experienced the stares, the off-handed comments, and the all-too familiar rejection, we are always in defensive mode when out and about with our children.  As mommas, we want to protect our kiddos from a world that doesn’t always offer patience and understanding.  But you can help with   that.  If you see a special needs mom out with her child, even if it looks like she doesn’t need your help, offer a word of encouragement.  Tell her she’s doing a good job.  Say a kind word about her child.  Let her know, above all else, that you “see” her and that you “see” her child.  Don’t look away.
  5. We make mistakes because we are frazzled.  We wake to find our child has painted his entire room in poop.  He eats the dog’s food with glee, but won’t touch anything that’s on his plate at lunch.  When we’re not looking, he dances on the dining table buck naked, sticks his head into the toilet, and tries to climb up the chimney.  He stuffs bark up his nose, hides rocks in his ears, and pees on the dog.   He laughs when you scold him and cries when you try to teach him.  He pulls his sister’s hair, hides in kitchen cabinets, and sleeps only four hours each night.  So give us a break.  If we snap at you, come off as a half-crazed nut job, or don’t answer a text right away, it’s not because you don’t matter to us.  It’s just that life is different for us.  We are a special needs mom!