I recently read a quote, on Pinterest, my new obsession. "You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice."
That quote perfectly sums up the last three (almost four, holy cow!) years for me. So many times people tell me "I just don't know how you do it." Well somedays I don't know either, but I do, because I have no choice really. Before Brenden was born I can't tell you how many times I said, "There's no way I have what it takes to raise a child with special needs." But being strong was my only choice when he was born. I made the choice to become a parent. And while I didn't exactly make the choice for Brenden to have SB, having a child is kind of like your wedding vows, "...for better, or worse." When you become a parent, you accept all the challenges that come with it, you take the good along with the bad.
Strong has many different meanings. If you asked Brenden what strong meant, he would put his arms up to show you his muscles. For me however, strong has a far different meaning. Strong is fighting back tears when you realize your newborn baby will need surgery at 12 hours old. Strong is putting on a smile and answering, "Ok," when someone asks you how you're holding up, after you've spent 25 days in the hospital with your baby. Strong is surrendering your child into the arms of a surgeon, 8 times to be exact. Strong is watching your child scream and cry because he can't yet crawl to get what he wants, but knowing that's what it will take for him to realize he CAN crawl. Strong is seeing your child fall in his walker, but not rushing to his aide, because he CAN get back up himself. (I get dirty looks from people when this happens....it's not negligent of me, folks, when Madelynn falls, I tell her to get up, and I do the same with Brenden!)
So, am I strong? In many ways, yes. I have to be. If I wasn't, I guarantee Brenden would not have come as far as he has. Trust me....I've seen lots of parents of children with special needs who just can't come to terms with the fact that their child is differently abled. Despite what some may think, that does affect the child. Why be ashamed or ignore it? In my opinion it does the child great injustice and can cause even greater defeat. I choose to be strong for Brenden because I want him to be strong. I don't want him to feel defeated because of a diagnosis. I don't feel sorry for him because I don't want him to ever feel sorry for himself.
So next time you see a mom, who may have a differently abled child, instead of feeling sorry for her and the situation, realize the strength she has. Realize that despite the fact that she may seem exasperated, seems to have lost her patience, or could really just use a compliment from a stranger. Don't stare with a look of sympathy. Tell her you admire her strength, instead of how sorry you are for what she's "dealing" with.