What International Day of Acceptance Means to Me as a Parent of a Child With a Disability
International Day of Acceptance is celebrated on Jan. 20. It’s a day when people all over the world vow publicly to accept and embrace their challenges, and support others no matter their abilities.
As parents, when we think of International Day of Acceptance and what that actually means, most of us probably think about asking others to accept our children the way they were born, or accept how they may have to live differently with a disability. All of which is true! But, what I have found is one of the hardest things about acceptance for me personally, is asking for acceptance of this new life from myself.
When we are younger, we all have these ideas and dreams of what our life will be like. We may dream of our wedding day or walking down the aisle in our beautiful gown. We dream of our future home and what our life will be according to our plans.
Then may come kids. Who will they look like? What will they be like? What sports will they love? Would they be as terrible in math as me? (I’m sorry Ashlynn and Cristiano…I sure hope not!) As a former professional dancer, I have dreamt of the day that I’d get to see my baby girl in lights on stage; to know what it feels like to be loved by an audience. We impose a lot of dreams and thoughts on our children before they are even here. All of us are guilty of it at some point or another. Then we get a little thrown off and may need to adjust from the “hopeful life” to what our life really looks like. This is not unique to families of people with disabilities. This happens in every family. I often have to remind myself we still have much more in common than not!
Life is about learning to embrace the change that enters from day to day; to learn to recalibrate when things go wrong, or not according to our plans. You have to begin again on a new route, with a different focus in mind.
I get asked a lot, “What is the hardest thing about being a parent of a child with different needs?” My answer is this: “It’s not the doctors visits, the different methods of treatment, the equipment…or even the knowing my daughter will undoubtedly grow up with adversity. It’s not knowing that a wheelchair will be a part of her future, although all of those things are tough for a parent to think about —it’s the recalibration process after these things happen. The “now what?” phase. There is pain, and sadness, and sorrow to work through. There is anger, confusion and desperation all found in that calibration phase, and it hurts…bad. Your heart aches for your children. We have all been there in some way, shape, or form.
But I have do have good news! That storm doesn’t last forever.
There is beauty in the acceptance phase. There is calm; there is peace. There is trust that the last event didn’t kill me, so this will be no different.
You begin to learn to live a life of acceptance and trust that, “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything through the One who makes me who I am.” Such an important thing to learn on this journey, which I will pass on to my daughter.
Once you get past the hurt and pain, you begin to gain momentum in the act of acceptance. You recalibrate your hopes and thoughts, not so much on the end result like you once had, but in the trust of knowing it will all be OK in the end no matter the result. You get back up and you continue with your race.
I have said this before and it still remains true today: every time I get knocked down, I stay there for a minute on my knees, I pause and remember to give thanks to God. I know He will be there every single time helping me back up to my feet for the next round. He is always more patient with me than I am myself. With each challenge, I get stronger and stronger; my trust becoming greater and greater.
So, no matter where you are in your acceptance journey, today we celebrate you, your family and your children. I am proud of this journey, how far we have come and all that has yet to come. I am proud that we have days like today to talk about the many layers of this new life and the many layers of acceptance. I am proud that we are not alone. And you better believe, I will be the proudest mama in the whole room when the day comes that my baby girl is on stage, shining like the beautiful light she is.
Happy International Day of Acceptance! You’ve got this mom and dad and you’re doing amazing. Embrace your journey and all that comes with it, and live each day with an understanding that you are not alone.
A version of this story originally appeared on ItsSimpleBekind.com.
Photos submitted by contributor.