Raising kids is no easy task to tackle. It feels like there is no end to the exhaustion, you say the same things twenty times before your kids decide to listen and every aspect of your character is tested, but it is the most rewarding job there ever was and ever will be. When you’re a parent of a child or children with special needs the task may seem especially daunting. Although there may be extra challenges, there are just as many blessings.
I had the privilege to sit down and talk with a sweet lady named Ms. Ivette. She has two handsome boys, Nicki and Anthony, who were both diagnosed with Autism at a very young age. It was an incredibly amazing and humbling experience to sit and talk with her about the trials, victories and lessons she’s learned about being a parent to children with special needs. Ms. Ivette has been the primary caregiver for her boys for their entire lives and she has done everything in her power to make sure the boys have whatever they need in order to grow and be successful in their lives. I asked Ms. Ivette what it was like to raise her boys, predominantly on her own and this was her response:
“I was never really alone. I came to know Jesus in a real and personal way through the diagnoses of my boys, so not only did I always have the Lord, but He placed amazing people in my life that did nothing but love and support the boys and I. We have had great therapists and doctors throughout their journey, who have always gone above and beyond to do everything possible for the boys. It was difficult to navigate some of the behavioral obstacles that come with Autism, but it was amazing to see how many people went out of their way to not only help, but be of great encouragement to me in those times.”
It was unbelievable to hear how much faith she’s carried throughout her parenting journey with her boys, not that she hasn’t endured obstacles and heartache, but it’s been easier with the encouragement from those surrounding her. When I asked what her biggest obstacle in raising her boys was and how she overcame it, she had an honest, but encouraging reply.
“Of course my boys have Autism, so they require some extra things that other kids don’t need, but I raised my boys in a very similar way to how I would have raised them if they didn’t have Autism. If they were having a tantrum, we dealt with it just the way you would with any ‘normal’ child, and I believe that is partially what has made them into the adults that they are today. I believe my biggest obstacle through my boys journey with Autism has been the communication barrier with my son, Anthony. He is completely non-verbal so it’s often difficult to know what he wants. It was especially heart wrenching when back a few years ago he was extremely ill and just couldn’t get better. As a Mom, it was heart breaking knowing there was nothing I could do to ease the pain, especially since he couldn’t tell me what was wrong. Although that communication barrier can be scary and frustrating at times, I know Anthony is working on communicating with me in other ways, and he’s still growing each and every day.”
It is so easy to take communication with our loved ones for granted. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to constantly be trying to figure out what your child needed, but it’s clear to me that Mom’s just have a sixth sense when it comes to their kids needs; it’s incredibly impressive.
Parents are expected to raise their children and teach them as many life lesson as they’ll listen to, but it’s often the children that teach their parents an important life lesson or two along the way. Ms. Ivette was open to sharing just a few of the lessons her boys have taught her as they have grown together on this journey.
“Nicki and Anthony are absolutely the loves of my life. They have a sweet innocence that many people don’t possess, and it’s part of what makes them so open to loving all of the people surrounding them. They, of course, have taught me patience, but they have also taught me strength. They have gone through so much and they continue to be strong and positive in every thing that they do. I have mustered up a strength to protect them at all costs, and fight to make sure they have every thing they want and need. Most of all, they have taught me an unconditional love I didn’t think I could have ever understood without them. Nicki and Anthony love every one around them, no matter their race, religion, or physical appearance. They just see your heart and that’s it, there’s nothing else to it. Watching them treat every one around them with love and kindness has taught me how to love, not only unconditionally, but more intensely.”
If your child has special needs, don’t see it as an obstacle or a curse, it’s a blessing. Not everyone is chosen to be a parent of a child with special needs, which means you were chosen for a reason. You are stronger than you think, and you will learn just how much that strength can carry you as you fight for your child’s needs. You are resilient in your relentless pursuit to make sure your child gets every thing they need to succeed in this world. And you will be blessed beyond belief as you watch your child grow and learn in new ways you didn’t think were possible, and as they learn, they’ll stretch and grow you in new and exciting ways as well.
Ms. Ivette being the veteran Mom that she is, had some great advice for those raising kids with special needs, so listen up:
“It’s okay. I get it. I really do understand. I know how tough and frustrating it can be, but do not give up. Every tough day is worth the hundreds of triumphant days that lie ahead. Through your journey, don’t forget that God is there and He will not forsake you, even in your darkest moments. Don’t do it alone. Surround yourself with loved ones that will encourage and support you as you walk this path of life."
To all the parents out there, especially the single Moms, thank you for every thing. Thank you for working so hard to provide for us, thank you for all the ways you sacrificed your needs for ours, thank you for exhausting yourself in order to make sure we were able to participate in all of those activities and above all else, thank you for being a perfect example of the Moms and Dads we want to be.
To the parents who were chosen to raise a child or children with special needs, you’ve got this. You are killing it. Don’t put yourself down because there are bad days, learn from those days, and use them to make the days, months, and years ahead just a little brighter. Learn from your children, as they learn from you, and above all else, do not give up because your child makes this world so much brighter!