Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Today was the third meeting with our architect as we continue the initial stages of building our dream home. Interestingly, at this meeting there was cause to disclose my eldest daughter's special needs as we discussed the functionality of our house plans for our kids. At the end of our meeting, the architect shared with us that he too has a special child. It is always amazing to see the shift in relational dynamic that occurs when two people, almost strangers, share this one bit of information. Suddenly, doors open into each others' lives and mutual understanding and empathy flow forth. As a parent of a child with special needs I notice an unspoken camaraderie, or a "Club" so to speak, with other parents in similar situations. No matter what the diagnosis or functioning level of your respective children, there is that immediate bond when you hear another parent's story or see them struggling at a restaurant or store with a child that reminds you of your own. An instant understanding. A deep connection. It crosses oceans, creates bridges, connects continents, transcends dialect, race and creed. It is unspoken pain, unspoken love, unspoken relatedness. I wonder sometimes if we parents, as a result of not quite "fitting into the norm," are trying to find and/or create some kind of community within the larger society. A community where we don't have to explain ourselves, where our child isn't stared at or worse - NOT stared at (you know, when people too politely avert their eyes). As the mother of both a "non-typical" child and three "typical" children, I always have one foot in one planet and one in the other. Dual citizenship. I straddle the galaxy and it never ceases to amaze me how both close and far away these worlds are from each other. The ability to live 2 parallel lives poses challenges as well as offers great reward and a sense of balance to a once lopsided existence. My oldest, afflicted with serious seizures at 4 months of age and diagnosed with Autism and "Mental Retardation" at age 2, was my only child for 10 years. For a decade I was a Mom, but didn't feel like I could relate one bit to the mothers around me. My life was filled with Physical, Occupational, Speech Therapies, private and county intervention, music therapy, neurologists, endocrinologists, cranial sacral therapy, secretin infusions, DAN protocols, visits to specialists, travel to conferences, and thousands of hours logged onto the Internet researching and on my knees in prayer. I was not on Planet Typical... the planet of regular Mommies doing regular parenting things, but rather orbiting in its atmosphere, desperate yet fearful to land. It's interesting because I have met some of the most wonderful people in the line at Baja Fresh, in an ice cream parlor, or by visiting each other's blogs from hundreds of miles away. We have crossed paths and bonded through the gravitational pull that draws special needs parents toward each other. I think when we meet someone who travels our path, who prays our prayers, who picked up the pieces of our same shattered dreams, who rebuilt our same new dreams, who revelled in new joys, who feel our pride and rejoicing, who cry our tears, who live on our planet, we breathe a sigh of relief. The relief of not needing to explain ourselves or our child's different behavior, appearance, or needs. The relief of speaking our own language. The relief of not having to give explanations. The relief of being released from orbit, even if just for a little while, and feeling the warm soil of our Homeland. Alicia D. has essays to be featured in the upcoming issues of Today's Caregiver and Autism Spectrum Quarterly. She can be found blogging about raising her four girls, one with Autism, at Welcome To My Planet.