We all know that sometimes the world sees our children differently, but it can be heart breaking when you realize your child sees themselves differently, or loved ones see them differently. Recently I had a falling out with a family member, and while there are many reasons behind it, out of the conversation came some things that surprised and hurt me.
The other children in the family are older than my children, the fist born of the family. With this come privileges, but sometimes responsibilities, too. My daughter has mild to moderate sensory issues and struggles with anxiety. She gets scared in certain situations more than the average child, but truthfully a lot of the situations would scare any kid. For example, on vacation recently we were trying out an inflatable slide that attached to the side of my parents new pontoon boat and dumped the kids right into the middle of the lake. She was wearing a life jacket, but I was unable to go down with her or wait at the bottom for reassurance because I had Buddy (who by the way did pretty well for his first time on a pontoon). I asked my nephews if they would wait for my darling at the bottom since she was scared. Keep in mind that darling was pretty afraid of water and would not even put her face in the water until she was about 5. My nephews were able to go down the slide without waiting for her most of the time, it was just the beginning when she was nervous, but she adjusted like usual.
To me, this was no big deal. I did not feel we were burdening anyone, ruining their fun, being an inconvenience. The next day during a conversation, my family member mentioned that it was not fair that his kids had to wait at the bottom of the slide just because my kid was afraid. Wow. Then later, there was a comment made about how maybe things have changed with all the “special needs” and it is too much.
I know that people might see us differently, even people close to us. I never thought anyone could see my children as taking away from them because of their needs, though. I cannot change the fact that my kids are younger any more than I can change the fact they have different needs. Doesn’t everyone to an extent? Even neuro-typical kids are accommodated and I have certainly accommodated his children on many occasions. And I was glad to, because we are family. It is one thing when people look at us funny because there is small mountain of torn paper under my sons chair or my daughter is plugging her ears while all the other kids are laughing and having ball. It does not bother me so much. What do they know about us? When it is people you love, though, it is different. They do know about us, and so to respond in any negative way hurts. Perhaps I am being sensitive. Perhaps it is hard for them to have relatives with special needs. Perhaps they resent the attention they perceive it gives my children. I can only guess. However hard it is for them, surely it must be more difficult for those of us that live with it?
In truth, I am not sure how to come back from this and I suppose only time will tell. I do know that I want to protect my children from judgment or pain. My daughter has said several times recently that she just wants to be normal. I stress to her that she is normal. We all are…everyone has his or her issues and we are all unique, and that is normal and ok. It certainly does not help when situations like this arise that contradict all the acceptance and love mom tries to warp around them. There is more positive energy in our life than negative, though, so I will just be grateful for that and we will keep on living our lives the best way I know how.
We all try to teach our children to be honest, respectful, and kind. I also try to teach them to be accepting and compassionate, generous and helpful, thinking of others first. I try to have them imagine what life may be like for others, which I hope plants the seeds of acceptance rather than judgment or entitlement. Even when we have encountered someone who has treated us badly, instead of denouncing that person I suggest that maybe they had a bad day and we should smile and be kind anyhow. I am not perfect at it, and despite all my best efforts kids will grow up with other influences and may or may not heed the lessons we teach them, but I hope these lessons will somehow make it easier to feel free to be themselves and let it roll off their back when someone just doesn’t understand them. I never want others prejudices or misconceptions or issues to have the power to bring them down. I also do not want them to sow seeds of anger in their heart when people do treat them different or poorly because this only hurts them. I imagine most parents’ wish similarly for their kids, but I am starting to see that these lessons may be all the more important for children with special needs. Accepting others and embracing difference lends itself to accepting, loving, and embracing ourselves.