How Special Needs Parenting Is Like Getting on an Airplane


dv2073216 Do you remember what the flight attendant says at the beginning of a flight? The part about securing your oxygen mask before helping others in the case of an emergency? I always nod my head in agreement. But sometimes, we need to really listen. Stick with me for a minute as I compare special needs parenting to flying the friendly (or not-so-friendly) skies.

We’re used to this turbulent flight of life with special needs. Routine and good planning gets us through the usual bumps of a busy schedule of “regular life” plus therapies, doctor visits and so on. Mommy has packed snacks and games to keep us all entertained — no worries. Little moments of prayer at church and date nights with the hubby smooth out the other bigger bumps. Then life gets a little more turbulent.

Late to swim, late to martial arts. Bump. Extra chats with friends while in the car running from here to there for a little in-flight entertainment smooth the journey. You’re out of clothes in the middle of the week? But I just did laundry. Bump. In trouble at school three days out of five and phone calls from the other kids’ teacher? Extra activities that are fun but require more running and balancing and shopping? Bump. Extra coffee break, breathing, snuggles in the quiet moment. Check. Short-staffed at work for even longer? Hubby working late more? We’re back to not sleeping through the night?  Bump. Curve ball at the IEP? I’m out of snacks. Slap in the face of more milestones not met again? BUMP. If I have to sing one more song or remind you to use your words or answer one more ‘why?’ I may lose it. More screaming and complaining? Of course you don’t like what I cooked for dinner. Lunch meat that I was going to use for lunch is out of date? I forgot to send what paper to school? Four Valentines parties? I only have two kids! BUMP. I can’t breathe. I’m out of soothing words, and it’s only 9 a.m. 

Mayday. Mayday. This mama is going down.

Wait… what was that someone said about needing to breathe so you can help others? When exactly am I to do that?! Right. Now. If you can’t breathe, then you can’t teach them calming breaths in a meltdown. If you can’t find kid-appropriate words when you’re mad, then how can they? Easier said than done, I know. Mommy guilt sneaks in even when you know you need a break. I suggest Girl Scout cookies, a bottle of red wine and a book that has no pictures. If you can find 24 hours in a hotel room to enjoy silence, it’s totally worth it. If it’s finally taking someone up on watching the kids for an evening/afternoon — totally worth it. If it takes putting your kids to bed 30 minutes early without telling them (may take some pre-planning of changing clocks, just don’t forget to change them back once they’re asleep) — totally worth it. 

I again have snacks for the bumpy flight (not Girl Scout cookies; those are only for Mommy). I can sing that song again or maybe even 400 more times if needed to calm someone down. I can smile and be happy for my friend that got to go on a real vacation. I can welcome my hubby when he comes home late from work with a kiss rather than a rant. I can send calm emails to advocate for my kids and notice the great moments while flying the friendly skies of parenting.

Show yourself some incredible love. Do something nice for yourself. You deserve it. (And so does the rest of your loved ones who have to deal with your crankiness when you don’t.)

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