When I had both of my boys, I tried desperately to nurse both of them exclusively. I nursed them on demand, I pumped, I took the herbs and such recommended for nursing mothers; in short, I did everything I could. Then, when supplementing became a reality because I just couldn’t keep up despite all of that, all I could focus on was the fact that I couldn’t do it. My pediatrician, though, professed being thrilled that I persisted with nursing even though I hadn’t been able to do it exclusively.
“You tried and they benefitted from what you could give them,” she said. That was a revelation. I honestly hadn’t thought of it that way at all.
Choosing to Change My Perspective
I guess I’ve always been a bit of the glass-is-half-empty kind of girl. Each year, though, I try to infuse some positive vibes into my new year by coming up with resolutions. Rather than focus on the typical ones like losing weight or watching my pennies, I’ve decided that this year is going to be about parenting my two boys, one with special needs and one without, in a different way.
I have three resolutions for this new year and they’re ones that I hope all parents, especially those with kids with special needs, will think about adopting too. Special needs parenting in Huntsville doesn’t have to be MORE complicated.
1. I will focus more on the positives than the negatives.
It is so easy when your child has delays to focus on all of the things that aren’t happening. Sure, my J’s communication skills have yet to catch up with his age. It would be easy to lament how much that affects his ability to relate to and interact with the kids around him at school. I did just that for the longest time. I would see him playing alone or look askance at a child who asked him a question that he couldn’t answer because he didn’t know how to or didn’t have the words for it yet. Then I would engage in the cycles of anxiety, worry, and blame, questioning constantly what we should/could/needed to be doing and weren’t. What were we missing? What else can we do?
In all of that fretting, though, I realized that I was missing out on him growing up. In my worry about whether or not he would be able to make friends as he grew older, I missed him making friends with his brother and with kids at school. In my worry about his future, I wasn’t seeing what he can already do, how good he is at his schoolwork, and how far he had come from when we started all of this in his toddler years.
This year, I will focus on the positives of both of my children. I will continue to give them hugs and kisses and be grateful every day that I get to be their mother. I will remember that all parents, whether their children are special needs or not, worry about the future and I am not alone in that.
2. I will exercise more patience with my children – and myself.
As my boys grow older, disciplining them gets more challenging. Throw in a child who doesn’t process information the same way that I do and discipline becomes a topic that I contemplate constantly. Because J has challenges, I feel the mistakes in discipline more keenly and I worry more about what my words and my actions tell him about himself and about his relationship with me. And, of course, there is that classic conundrum that both boys have different personalities and thus one approach to discipline does not fit all, something I need to remember.
Because of his delays, it’s easy to grow impatient with his behavior faster. It’s easy for me to forget that I need to word my questions or requests a little differently so I need to be more patient not only with him, but with myself. I am not perfect; I am human too, just like he is. I have my own challenges and my own stresses just as he does. In interacting with both of my children, I need to think about being more patient with them and consider the context rather than going straight to the negative. A the same time, though, I need to be aware of myself and my personality and how that can influence the situation just as much as my children do.
3. I will take joy in watching them grow.
As a freelance writer and editor with projects and commitments, my days are spent shoehorning as much work into my kids’ school days as possible. It amazes me to look at my children and realize how quickly they’ve both grown up – already! I realize now that this happened in between semesters and deadlines and changes in my life as well as my husband’s. I’m sure you’ve said the same thing to yourself and to others: I can’t believe how much they’ve grown. I always heard about how fast it goes by and hearing used to drive me crazy, but it’s not wrong. Even my J, with his autism and the accompanying challenges that can define him as this one thing, has grown and changed and it seems to have taken no time at all.
So this new year will find me watching both of my children grow and change and taking joy in it. J got his first haircut without screaming this past week and I marveled at how far we’ve come from the first time we cut his hair and were exhausted by the effort of dealing with a child with anxiety about the whole experience. I will take those moments and hold them close to my heart and be grateful for it because he’s my child and he’s more than just the labels and delays and therapies and all of those things that can define him, but shouldn’t.
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This post was originally published in 2016 but has been updated with current info.
Jennifer Kelly grew up in the Birmingham area, but migrated to Huntsville for graduate school and put down roots after meeting her husband, Jamie. In addition to being a mom to her two boys, she is a tennis ninja, trivia nerd, freelance editor, and aspiring writer. You can visit her at The Sir Barton Project, a blog about her upcoming book.