Dear Parents of Children With Special Needs,
You are not invisible. I see you every day when I’m doing ordinary things. You, too, are often immersed in the mundane: mingling with the rest of the world at the grocery store, taking a walk in the park, running errands and attending church.
I see you clearly, like the crisp dawn after a hazy winter’s evening. I watch your hidden heroism, which I know you wouldn’t claim for yourself. It’s an awkward, uncomfortable title because you do what anyone would do for their children, after all.
But you don’t know that I notice you because I’m one of many among the crowds of people surrounding us in this bustling world. I look up from my list or book or hymnal, and I know the weariness you wear in your eyes. I see the worry on your face and the joy in your heart. Your patience, tenderness and loving care as you fold wheelchairs, adjust tracheostomy tubes and quietly redirect socially inappropriate comments often carry me through the drowsiness of my days. I see you and your actions of charity, and I’m humbled as I slip away, unnoticed by you.
I want you to realize that you live and walk among many other people who notice you and are changed by your unspoken witness of love. Not everyone will have the opportunity to tell you they see you, you’re doing a fabulous job and that you — and your children — matter. And yet, they will think it, internalize it and be forever changed because of something you don’t even know you’re doing.
You return to your homes, sometimes discouraged and drained, and you wonder if the small — and exemplary — things you do each day truly make a difference. You might feel isolated, alone and often frustrated at your inability to relate to typical families. But your child has abundantly blessed your life beyond measure (and countless other lives, too), and though life is tough, you wouldn’t change anything about it.
The truth is, you have learned that the greatest, most rewarding and satisfying aspects of your life are those fraught with sacrificial love. The fruits of your sacrifices are gleaming in the light of your child’s eyes, in the kind comments of your other children and in the gestures of thoughtfulness and chances you give other parents and children to love you and your child.
I know this profoundly, but how? I know you fleetingly, and yet you only know me by a smile or subtle nod as you resume your daily activities. But I will never forget you. You remind me of what kind of parent I aspire to be, how much more I hope to give to my children and how much less of myself I hope to possess.
I know this because I, too, am a parent of children with special needs.
Sometimes the roles are reversed, and I’m where you are now. Sometimes I’m out and about with my children, doing typical and routine activities. And sometimes I return home to the same things you do: laundry, dishes, an unkempt house and mountains of chores. I do this without thinking, and yet — perhaps — there is someone out there who saw me with my daughters, too. Perhaps they noticed in a hidden way, and yet their hearts were touched by what they saw.
Please know that despite the often brutal cruelty with which you may be met at times, there are many more people who acknowledge your sacrificial love and the joy that supplants transitory happiness. They may not say anything to you because they haven’t been given a chance, or they aren’t sure what to say, but they will never forget you. They, too, may have a story of caregiving of others. You will remind them of this but in a fond and delicate way.
You are not forgotten, and you are not invisible. You are the heroes and heroines of our modern day, and your children are the superheroes because they rescue us from a false sense of self that is rooted in narcissism and apathy. They sweep in to jolt us awake from our drowsiness, our bitterness and our busyness. And then they — and you — lance our hearts with a love that supersedes any material wealth, pleasure or comforts we could possibly acquire.
Thank you for your hidden heroism, your constant love and your quiet virtue.
The Mighty is asking the following: Tell a story about a time someone helped you and/or your child when you needed it most. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.