Dear Moms of “typical” kids,
I’m writing this letter because I want you to know a few things about how it feels to be a special needs mom in what feels like a world of moms with typical kids. I want to clear the air on a few things that I think might be weighing on all of our minds. But mostly, I want you to hear a few things from my heart that I’ve been thinking for the past year following my son’s autism and subsequent diagnoses.
Mostly I want you to know that I see you. I can see you hesitate when you are about to celebrate one of your child’s accomplishments in front of me, wondering if it will make me sad because my son may never be able to do the things your kid does every single day. I can see the exhaustion in your eyes as we chat over coffee and you tell me about your kid’s behavior issues at school, but then you pull back because you know whatever is going on in your world could never be like what we’re going through.
I can feel your stress while you are planning that birthday party, thinking carefully about every detail and worrying about how much it’s all going to cost, but then not sharing it all with me because you know my son may never have a birthday party with friends because it’s too sensory-overwhelming for him. And then I hear the uncertainty in your voice as you invite my kid to that birthday party with a few important caveats- only if he’ll be comfortable, don’t feel like you have to come, it might be too much, you totally won’t hurt my feelings. I can almost reach out and hold your embarrassment when you talk about how expensive something is, and then you remember how much we are paying for therapy and a special therapeutic preschool and for medical testing. I can hear it in your voice when you won’t tell me how tired you are because you aren’t sure if our son has been sleeping lately.
I don’t know what it’s like to raise a neurotypical kid because I’ve never done it, but I want you to know something- your struggles and your feelings are valid. Just because your child doesn’t have a long list of diagnoses or spend the majority of his day in therapy doesn’t mean that your version of motherhood is easier than mine. It’s just hard in a different way.
And while I value your sensitivity to my situation and your questions about my son’s development, I want you to know that I think about your kids and I want to know about the challenges you are facing and the things you are celebrating. It helps me to feel less alone. It helps me to realize that all moms struggle no matter what their circumstances. It helps normalize my motherhood experience. So please, please don’t stop talking to me about your fears and your challenges and the awesome things your kids are doing. I want to hear them because I care about you and I care about your kids. Please keep talking.
And it’s okay if you don’t really know how to react when I talk to you about my kiddo. Just like I’ve never raised a neurotypical kid, you probably haven’t raised one with autism, mixed receptive expressive disorder, and sensory processing disorder. When I text you to tell you that my almost 4-year-old was able to leave the house without lining up all of his cars, I want you to celebrate like it’s the most awesome thing you’ve ever heard.
And when I call you to talk about how exhausted I am because we haven’t slept in three days or because we’ve discovered some new issue to add to the list of all the other things, I just want you to listen. You don’t have to solve all of my son’s problems. Actually- you can’t solve his problems- nobody can. I want you to keep inviting him places and understanding when I tell you it’s beyond his capacity. And I want you to be okay with saying that you aren’t sure what to say or that you aren’t sure what it must feel like to walk in our shoes.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want you and your kids to stay in our lives. I value you, I value your experiences, and I want you to do your version of motherhood as freely as I do mine. We’re all in it together, and I want to walk in your journey with you as you walk my journey with me.
To doing motherhood together-