I am the first person to paint the world silver, putting a positive spin on anything bad or uncomfortable that happens in my life. People say “That’s so you, always with a smile!” and I flash my teeth and try hard to believe the words that are coming out of my mouth. There’s something to be said about maintaining a positive outlook and throwing out affirmations like they are confetti. 90% of the time, I really am happy and I know that my daughter has a bright future. But there are times that the emotional drain of having a special needs child simply gets to me.
I met up with a friend a few weeks ago at the park. I had my bunch and she had hers. All but my daughter are typically developing children. My daughter has a severe speech delay and often has trouble “finding words.” This results in tantrums, whining and pointing. Though she’s only three years old, she’s very tall (wears a size 5/6 clothing) so there is an expectation from those around us that she should be able to talk. From the outside looking in, she seems spoiled or simply poorly behaved. That day more than one parent scoffed, removed their child from playing near my daughter and even hissed “what’s wrong with her?!”
Because I’m used to her unorthodox methods of communication and skilled at the art of distraction, I almost don’t notice the looks and judging from other families. For some reason, that day it all got to me. As my daughter threw herself on the ground because she couldn’t climb the structure without help but was having trouble asking for it, I robotically stood her up and said “help please.” She melted back to the ground and we repeated the scenario a few times before she finally said “help please,” and I helped her get her footing. To me, it was a win; SHE USED WORDS! When I turned around, several parents were staring at us with disgust and that’s when I heard the “what’s wrong with her?!” I held my breath to keep the hot tears from streaming down my face.
The friend I was with swooped in with a hug and pointed out how she noticed how hard my daughter was working to use her words. She complimented my patience and persistence. She reminded me how far she’s come in such a short time. I am grateful for her love and support that day. because it’s moments like that that drain my cup.
I’d love to say I don’t ever worry about what people think of me or my children. I’d love to say nothing matters but her health. The truth is that she IS different, and as much as that makes her special and unique and amazing, it also makes it harder for her to play and make friends. She struggles to communicate her basic needs, and it hurts my heart that she has to endure judgment on top of that. I know with continued therapies and her incredible school, we WILL make progress. I see light ahead. But right now, it hurts like hell.