Special kids go to special parents.
I hate that cliché. I know it’s supposed to be a compliment, but I think this statement does more harm than good for the parents, the kids, and the special needs community as a whole.
First off, it’s flat out not true. Special needs kids are born to all kinds of parents, just like typical kids. There are many special needs parents who neglect or abandon their children, who don’t seek out therapies and specialists, or who decide things are too hard and make decisions about their child’s future based on their own fear rather than what’s best for their son or daughter. And you will find the exact same thing in parents with typical kids.
Second, this statement is incredibly discouraging to parents just starting the journey. Cause ya know what? We don’t feel (or want to be) special. We look at other moms on this journey and think “I’m not special like them. I can’t do this.” We aren’t seeing those other moms at the beginning of their journey when they were in shock and grief stricken. When they just wanted to run away and hide. When they yelled to God that this wasn’t fair and begged Him to make their child “normal”. When part of them wondered if it might be easier if their child died. When many of them felt that their real child had already died. When every morning they would wake up only to have reality slam into their chest like the ceiling had just crashed down. When their face was always makeup free and tear stained. You can imagine how disheartening it can be to be compared with the moms that are past that stage who look at their children lovingly and say with full conviction that they love their child just the way they are. How can any parent in the midst of their grief think they will ever be “special” enough to love their child so unconditionally?
Third, it creates a mystique that only special parents can parent a special needs child. That only those that are perfectly equipped with the perfect set of skills can effectively raise a child with special needs. And so parents that get a prenatal diagnosis or those that see special needs kids up for adoption, think “I can’t do that. I don’t have the right amount of (patience, money, courage, organization, whatever) to parent a child like that.” And so children wallow in orphanages because the parents of the world don’t think they can handle it like those “special” parents. And babies are aborted because mothers feel so much less than the special needs moms they see.
Special kids go to flawed parents. All special needs kids. Every single one of them has parents that are flawed in so many different ways. The reason it looks like they only go to special parents? It’s because the parents you see are the ones that accepted the challenge and ran with it and not the ones who abandoned the fight. And? Our children have made us better. They have made us grow and change in ways we never imagined. They have taught us more about life and love than any other experience in our lives. And they have shown us how incredibly privileged we are to be their parents. We are not martyrs, drudging through every day because we have to. We are not saints who somehow were gifted at birth with superhuman parenting abilities. We are regular people with strengths and weaknesses who love our children.
And if you are the type of parent that loves your children, you could do what we do. How do I know that? Because the love for your children will spur you on to do whatever you need to do to give them the best life possible. If you had told me 19 months ago, that I would be proficient at sticking a plastic device into a hole in my daughter’s neck and trachea to allow her to breathe, I would have said there is NO way I could do that. And maybe my pre-Evie self wasn’t capable of doing it. But our love for her, our desire to see her breathe with ease, the memories of watching her struggle, and our desperate wish to have her home with us, made us into the kind of people that can do trach care on an infant.
Don’t spread the lie that only parents special enough can love and care for a special needs child. It may seem like an innocuous phrase, but it reflects the bigger cultural view of these precious human beings: that they are a burden that only the best parents can love and care for. Don’t discourage those just starting the journey or plant seeds of doubt in those God may place on this path some day with their own special needs child. If you want something better to say, try, “You don’t have to be a special parent to love this special child, but loving them will transform you in ways you can’t imagine!” because that is the truth!