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I’m Not ‘Brave’ for Being the Parent of Children With Special Needs

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Parenting is tough. It is difficult. I had a realization last week when talking to someone about an idea I have for my next tattoo. I already have three, but my greatest one is yet to come. I plan to get a Superman symbol on my arm with a puzzle piece with a hint of green. Autism and mental health will be represented on my arm with my children’s birth dates. “Why would you do that?” I was asked. My response was simple: “I have two children on the autism spectrum and one child with a mental health disorder. All three of my children have a diagnosis.” This statement is matter of fact to me at this point in time.

The person I was talking to was speechless for a moment, and then he realized that my children are living in a single-parent household as well. The questions came: “How, what, why?” Then the accolades. Yes, I’m a single parent raising three children with differing diagnoses, but I’m a parent raising my children.

Yes, I am an advocate and always will be. I was an advocate at a young age, and I didn’t realize why at that time. I believe God was preparing me to be the parent I needed to be for my children.

As they have aged, we still have issues with behavior, but not like we used to have. They have challenges with school sometimes, but we are a family and face them together. That’s it. I’m not saying their conditions do not affect how we approach situations. It totally changes how I approach behavior issues, arguments, sadness, anger, and the gambit of emotions that exist in my household with two teenagers and one preteen. I do admit that it changes my approach in how I conduct my day. I am more aware of those around me, the moods I am in after a rough morning, and that everyone fights their own battle. However, I am not brave for raising my children.

No parent wants to go out into the world and constantly be bombarded with, “You are so brave,” for doing what you know you have to do. You are a parent. Your child is not their diagnosis; they are a child. They want to be loved and understood just like everyone else. As a parent, I want to be known and appreciated as a person first and my skill set second.

We have lived for 11 years now since the first diagnosis. We have struggled and worked to get to where we are. We are a family. Just like any family, we support one another. I’m not brave for being a single parent. I’m not brave for having children with special needs. I’m brave for having signed on the dotted line to serve and die for my country. I’m brave for continuing to support and defend others. I am brave because I continue to strive for greatness. I’m not brave for being a parent to my children.

Dear people who think we, parents of children with special needs, are brave — look at the definition and synonyms of bravery, courageous behavior or character; courage, valor, intrepidity, nerve, daring, fearlessness, audacity, boldness, dauntlessness, stoutheartedness, and heroism. I’m none of those for giving birth to and raising my children. I’m just another mom facing a different set of circumstances.

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Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: October 18, 2016
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