Wednesday, October 10, 2007

To Be or Not To Be... Special

When Kenin and I were in Texas for Jena's wedding, we stayed with some close friends of ours, Larry and Sharon. The night before the wedding, we sat outside, talking. Somehow the conversation rolled around to the idea that we're considered by a fair amount of people to be "special" because of the things that we've gone through as parents or in some cases, simply because we choose to parent. (Sharon (Larry is hubby #2) lost her youngest son, Stuart, to leukemia when he was 8 years old, and we, of course, have Patrick.)

In a way, it's a little offensive to me that people think we're different from any other parents because I don't feel we are. We have the same hopes and dreams for our kids that you have for yours. Our expectations are the same as yours. We expect - and insist on - our children to be polite and respectful and to behave appropriately. It doesn't matter one whit to me if it's Ashlyn or Patrick or Hunter burping at the dinner table - they all know how to say "Excuse me", and they better do it. I absolutely know that one day Patrick will be on his own and will have his own life, just as any 'normal' person would. The only difference is that Patrick will be living in a group home instead of by himself. I saw Patrick dress in a tux and ride off in a limo to his high school prom. I watched him walk across the room, get his diploma, and shake hands with the principal of his high school. So far, Patrick's life is pretty much on par with most people his age. In so many ways he's like everyone else, and as far as I'm concerned, so are we.

The idea that we're somehow special or different because of our children is a bit foreign to me. Yeah, we've dealt with, and in some cases still deal with, things that most typical parents don't, but I don't think that makes us any better than anyone else. I think the comments that I hear the most often are "I don't know if I could do what you're doing", or "I don't know how you do it." Well, guys, you just kind of make due with whatever it is that's thrown your way. If you get stuck in traffic and are late to work, you don't quit your job because of it, do you? You just suck it up and deal with it, right? Now, I'm not saying that there aren't days that it doesn't just plain suck to be the parent of a developmentally disabled child, but there are just as many days that I don't want to be the parent of a "normal" child, either. And Sharon, she's lost her son altogether, so who am I to complain about my kids, aggravating as they can be?

Sharon told me that she'd asked God for a special child, and she'd gotten one, although Stuart's kind of special wasn't what she'd expected. Why did I 'get' Patrick? I don't know for sure. I know that he was part of the package when I married Kenin, but I imagine it was for reasons other than that. I think maybe God thought I should get into the 'family business' (my mom was a speech therapist, my cousin is a speech therapist, one of my mother's cousins is developmentally disabled, my aunt and uncle were foster parents for years and years, etc.) of giving and doing for others. Maybe He thought that I needed to learn patience, or to not be so selfish. Maybe it was because many years ago in The Nuthouse I was told that I was incapable of having empathy for others. Maybe I just drew the short straw. Who knows? And who really cares? This life is just what it is... mine.

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