We all know that newborns don’t come with a manual. There is no guidebook for parenting. Sure, Dr. Spock has his theories, along with bookshelves full of ideas. But, mostly, that’s just what they are, theories. What works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for another, even siblings.
Essentially, we make it up as we go, hoping we’re doing what’s best for our child.
For the most part, I feel like I’m doing an okay job parenting; my kids are polite, kind, and respectful. Do they argue, sure. Do I occasionally lose my cool? Absolutely. Am I always a model of patience? Not a chance.
This weekend, though, I met the parents that should be the ones writing the guidebooks. I was humbled not only as a parent, but as a person.
I attended a fundraiser for Connection of Friends, a local organization for special needs teens/adults that have “aged out” of school and most standard programs. COF provides a welcome environment for them to engage socially, participate in recreational activities, and improve life skills.
Many of the parents I spoke with don’t have children at COF…yet; their kids are younger than 16.
While we are surrounded with friends and family whose children have special needs: autism, CHARGE, and others “undiagnosed”, I would never presume to understand what it means to parent these children.
What I did learn, though, is that they are parents in a class all their own.
And, “What’s best for my child” takes on an entirely different meaning. It’s not about hiring pitching coaches for 8 year olds, buying a wardrobe of the latest fashions that they’ll grow out of in 6 months, or applying to preschools that will supposedly fast forward your child to an Ivy League.
They are truly their child’s advocate, constantly pursuing what is right for their child. Often visiting various schools to learn which one will best help their child learn and thrive, unafraid to change environments as they grow. Not to a school based on reputation, but one that best suits their child’s needs.
They are informed, and unafraid to speak out in behalf of their child’s best interests.
I was calmed by conversations that weren’t judgemental or focused on “one-upping” another parent, but rather supportive and encouraging. Not necessarily offering advice, but networks of support.
We should look to these parents who have endless patience, and strong shoulders to support one another as our guides.
I’m tired of the working vs. stay at home mom debate. We are all working. The guilt over formula vs. nursing has to end. We are all trying to do what’s best for our child, and somedays that “best” looks different than others.
At the end of the night, 22 year old Emma came to thank us for supporting “her” Connection of Friends, and stayed to chat with (for the most part) a table full of strangers.
She was funny, polite, and respectful. Exactly what I hope my kids are at 22.
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