Kathy Marshall is the first “special”mom that I connected with. Her son John and my son Matthew were in the kindergarten together in a special day class. John, I learned, had cerebral palsy. Kathy had a bemused smile on her face when she told me this. I wondered what that was all about, but it made me feel less anxious about my situation. Matthew was developmentally delayed, and I was in the process of helping him catch up, certain that this would be the only year that he’d need special education. OK, I wasn’t certain, but I was hopeful.
I was struck by how comfortable Kathy seemed in a room full of 5 and 6 year olds with developmental disabilities.She chased after her mischieveious son John cheerfully when he bolted away with a handful of cookies, maintaining an upbeat conversation the entire time. Seeing this woman looking positive and engaged rather than downbeat and bedraggled gave me hope. Looking back, I think meeting her was my first “Aha” moment special-mom-style. I was going to be OK.
Kathy doesn’t know this, but she was the role model that I needed to get me on the path toward acceptance. I’d like to pass the lessons that she taught me by example on to you:
HOW TO BE A SPECIAL NEEDS MOM
- Offer words of encouragement to new special moms—Not “God will only give you as much as you can handle” or “The limit of human endurance has yet to be reached.” They’ll hear that plenty down the road.“ Try “You seem like a great mom. I know you’re overwhelmed but once you find helpers, and a circle of support, things will improve. I have some names right here…”
- Teach others how to relate to your child by showing them how you do it–Gracefully and with love.
- Share resources freely. Pull names and phone numbers out of your head, or from scraps of paper in your purse.
- Treat your helpers and circle of support really really well, because they are your lifeline and your family.
- Venting is good, and whining is bad. Period.
- Stay connected to parents of special kids, even when your children go in different directions.
- Admit it when you are going through a particularly difficult phase with your child, and ask for help. Brainstorming is good. Special moms like to share their expertise.
- After a good venting/brainstorming session, take a deep breath and remember how hard it is to be your child. Give them the admiration they deserve.
- If venting and brainstorming are not enough, seek guidance from a professional-one of your special mom friends might have a good referral that they can scribble on the back of a gum wrapper.
Kathy’s son John passed away unexpectedly last week, most likely from a seizure in his sleep. All who knew him and who know his wonderful parents are devastated. John was only 24 years old. One of the first things Kathy told me after she told me the news was “I hope Matthew still calls me!”
He will, Kathy. Thank you for talking with him. And thank you for teaching me how to be a special mom.
Friends– Will you send a small donation to RES/SUCESS, John’s incredible day program, to honor Kathy, and her beloved son’s memory?
Click HERE to learn more.