Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Power of Raising Special Kids

One day a friend told me that she was not materialistic. After sucking my left lung back in from laughing so hard, I said, facetiously, “Well, let’s see:

You have a 4-carrot diamond ring on your left hand because the 2-carrot one wasn’t big enough…
You drive a car that rhymes with “bummer…”
You know the staff at Coach "personally," as you do the customers (kiss, kiss left to right...)
You tell the world that you like, what’s that word: “Bling”

Mmmm, you’re right, can’t see why you would be? ;)”

She takes this personally. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with materialism; it means that you like “things” and if you can afford them, then lucky you. She’s a great mother and a generous friend, so who cares.

I bring this up because once a long time ago, I, too, liked “things” (and still do) but the only difference between me then and me now is that I'm not judging myself or competing with my neighbors, as I once did. I no longer care about having a Volvo in my driveway, or living in a Mcmansion. The change: my kids’ diagnosis.

It's very sobering to find out that your children have developmental problems and working to help them is all you can imagine “having” and “doing” in your life. I remember this feeling clearly, it was an eye opener and a relief, as strange as that sounds.

I was no longer that person who needed things to feel better about herself; instead, I needed to help my children live a functional life, and had a life’s work ahead of me. It wasn’t the fact that I no longer had time for the mere silliness of “keeping up with the Joneses,” as it were, but it was more of the fact that I started viewing it as silliness. Mind you, that before my kids’ diagnosis--and this life altering view, I was making it my life’s mission to move on and UP. This new revelation of mine also came with the loss of some of my friends; people who live in that idea of a “perfect world” or fantasy of one, no longer find YOU attractive. And YOU no longer find them attractive, either.

It was very liberating to lose these friends. I was no longer fighting with them for a place at the country club; but, instead, I was fighting for my children futures. A real dichotomy, now isn’t it?

The most liberating part of leaving behind this “past life” mentality was that I found myself on the luckier side of this dichotomy, like it was a belated gift of understanding what life was really about—and glad that I was wise enough to accept it. Because I will tell you, the other life has a powerful way of sucking you right in. But the power of special needs kids is so much stronger and richer, and I think happier, too.


Christina Shaver said...

I love this post!

Sure puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

But at the same time, I remember when my past life's problems (life before kids and then life before raising a kid with special needs) seemed just as urgent as the problems I deal with today.

I look back on my past self and think I was so silly to make such a big deal out of nothing meaningful. It just makes me wonder what in my life now I'm taking for granted...

Holly Nappi Collins said...

I know. I think the best part about getting older is having more experiences and learning from them. I'm 41 now and I wouldn't trade it back for my 30s again. (Not loving the laugh lines though!)

I think we should visit the local nursing homes and start interviewing the 80 and 90 year olds. ;)

sandwichgen said...

Well, I'm 61 and have spent a lot of time in the nursing home with my parents. I do not have a special needs child, but have been witnessing the care and love my cousin has displayed with her special needs child. I am reminded of words of wisdom a clergyman once wrote about stressing out about things that seem so important at the time. His advice was to ask yourself if in 30 years this particular incident will have had any impact on your life? If the answer is "no", stop stressing out. Now you don't have to go to those nursing homes anymore...