Learning Acceptance from Other Parents
When I was in college at OSU, I was walking across Hall of Fame to Bennett Hall to have lunch with my friends when a car came zooming through the crosswalk and hit me. I have no recollection of the event, except waking up in the hospital with a broken body. The accident occurred during finals week (I don’t recommend it as a way to get out of taking finals) of the fall semester. I spent the spring semester hobbling around on one crutch because of my cracked pelvis, and unable to use my left arm. It had been crushed at the top, so my arm had to be immobilized by strapping it to my body. I also have a scar on my head from the 10 or so stitches I got to close the gash. I’m lucky. I’m lucky because I have no permanent damage from that experience. I’m also lucky because in a very small way, I understand what it means to have difficulty walking, getting up steps and over curbs, lifting books (I worked at the library) and opening jars, or myriad things that you might need the full use of all your limbs.
I also came away with admiration for and appreciation of people who struggle with any kind of disability. While others have permanent physical or mental disabilities, it was different for me. I knew (or was fairly certain) that my disabilities were temporary.
The October issue of TulsaKids is about children with special needs and their parents. While not every article deals with the topic, a number of them do. I’ll admit that when I put special needs as a topic for October on my editorial calendar, I was not looking forward to doing the issue. I thought it would feel sad or negative. But what I found was the opposite.
When the issue was finished, I came away feeling that people who have special needs are not defined by them. The children and their parents find what they can do, which is really no different from what any parent does. I’ve seen my children struggle with many things and succeed with others. I would never want them to be defined by their differences or their lack of ability in something. The parents in this issue are admirable because they face their children’s abilities and inabilities head-on. Despite the added difficulties that they face, they don’t give up.
Every child is “different.” My children will never be surgeons. They will never cure cancer. They will never invent something like Facebook. But their lives are relatively easy compared with those who struggle with physical or mental disabilities. I know that, and I am grateful for it.
I know that parents who have children with special needs also need more help. The October issue of TulsaKids has a list of resources in the print edition and much more online.
Ultimately, I was fortunate enough to walk away from my “disabilities” after just a few months. Others are not so fortunate. But if we’re paying attention, we can learn so much from parents who have children with special needs. We can learn to accept our own children without qualification. We can be grateful for our children’s differences. We can learn how to let go and to really understand what a pleasure it is to see our children do things without our help or intervention.