Usually in life we gauge experiences on a kind of scale system. The good versus the bad. The sorrow versus the joy. We determine if something was overall good or overall bad by which was experienced more. And typically the two balance one another out some. A very good experience is lessened some by the bad. A bad experience is lessened some by the good.
But what about our journey has ever been “typical”?
I have been somewhat surprised at the HUGE range of emotions on this journey, sometimes almost in the same moment. But one thing I never expected was that the grief and joy would never weigh against each other. Never balance or cancel each other out.
Our lows are so intensely low. Our highs, so insanely high. But they don’t balance one another in the overall experience of parenting a child with special needs. The highs in no way make the lows less low. The lows in no way make the highs less high.
And I’ve found that hard to convey to those who aren’t on a similar journey. And I think others struggle with this, too.
And so we generally find we can only present one side. Which do we choose? The hardships? That would get us the help we need for our child and our family, but no one wants to present their child as a burden. The joys? That generally leaves families with very little support in their daily needs as we gloss over the struggles.
How do we express to the world that parenting our child is a both/and situation, not an either/or? It’s not EITHER bad OR good. It is BOTH a struggle AND a joy.
Our child is not less of a gift to our family because they have come with hardship. In fact, I might even argue that they bring MORE happiness to a family BECAUSE of their struggles. They have made us more grateful, more aware of the little things, more dependent on one another, more focused on the truly important things in life. We maybe have more joy because we have to look for it all around us.
So here’s the takeaway: If we grieve the hardships with our child, it does not lessen the joy we feel at the triumphs. But it goes both ways. The joy we feel at the triumphs also does not lessen the intense grief we feel at the hardships. There’s no scale in special needs parenting.