Monday, May 7, 2012

What I Want For My Kids

When I started raising special needs kids thirty years ago, I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about what I wanted for them. I assured them they could do anything if they tried hard enough. I assumed they would graduate from high school and go on to college. I assumed they would be able to navigate the world, finding their niche, and be productive and happy members of society.

In some ways, they met my expectations. They all graduated from high school with regular diplomas, one or two years after their age mates. Two out of three went on to college, although without a lot of success. Two out of three are supporting themselves- minimally, but without government help. None of them are comfortable in the neurotypical world. None of them feel  as if they are part of the mainstream.

What I want for GB and Hope, now, after watching my older kids grow up and learning many things that weren't known in the eighties and nineties, and doing a lot of growing up myself, is different.

I still want them to do the best they can and work hard, but now I acknowledge that there are sometimes that hard work isn't enough. I want them to do their best, but I have learned that some accomplishments come at a price I am not willing for them to pay. I still want them to productive and happy members of society, but I now know that they will need direct support to achieve that. My older children never had all the support they needed in school because I didn't know what that support  should look like. I knew they had special needs, but  I looked at those needs as something that needed to be fixed, not as something that was an intrinsic part of who they are. That was how the rest of the world looked at them, but by accepting the rest of the world's view, I deprived my older children of the feeling of unconditional acceptance.

I won't make that mistake again.

These days, I spend as much time making memories and providing varied experiences for the girls  as I spend working on skill building. That requires a lot of contingency planning, because Hope still rages regularly. It also requires thick skin as Hope could play the lead role in "The Exorcist" during most rages. Thankfully God blessed me with thicker than average skin and experience finished the job. I am usually oblivious to anything except what the child needs. The jury is still out out on Hope, but I know that GB is already more self aware then any of my older children and is happier and more successful in school  than any other child I have ever raised. She has been taught coping skills and she uses them regularly.

That is a good start.


Lee said...

I feel like I have learned a lot since raising Chet. Like you, I looked at differences as somethinig to fix. I looked for supports but they were not the kind he needed. He did not feel accepted. He did not fit in. I am sad that I missed the boat so utterly on his emotional needs when he was younger but have made huge differences in my goals and expectations for him moving forward.

Jess said...

Excellent post!

Very important for me to read as I am in the trenches of raising my "first" round of kids with similar special needs. Loved your perspective and will be pondering it this week!
Thank you!

Sarah said...

I love this post! I definitely need to think about this one.

Barb G said...

I love your beautiful heart, my friend. (((hug)))

Success for our son is to love and be loved, to not want to hurt those he cares for, and one day for his kids to adore him . . . and for him to be worthy of that adoration. :-)

Loosey said...

My kid is not neurotypical and I have always been amazed at how terrific she does when she has a teacher or coach who emphasizes her strengths. It sounds like you have a great plan for your girls. You can't beat yourself up about the older kids, the nineties were all about "fixing" kids.

Kristine said...

Such a good reminder for me! It is very hard to accept that you can't "fix" your kids. I think I am just starting to get there with Noah. I owe a great deal to you for showing me that "fixing" isn't always the right path. I know I'm still going to try, but I'm working on it.

Love you!