We all have dreams…
Some of us live other people’s dreams and many live our nightmares!
Life, as we knew it, changed about a year ago for us as a couple, as a family…
With 6 years of parenting my neuro-typical daughter – Laiba (not in the spectrum) and about 4 years into the parenting journey with my son – Hasan, we thought life was predictable and everything is okay.
It started with a few delayed milestones. But, as the saying goes, we always hear what we want to hear. Our concerns about his milestones were assuaged by the typical, “Oh, he is just a late speaker” or “we know a boy who never said a word till he was 5, he is perfectly okay now”, “boys tend to speak late”, “Just put him in a Montessori school.”
Plonked on the couch, after putting the kids to sleep, my husband and I have wondered on many nights – what is it that we are missing, why are we not able to understand Hasan as much as we did with Laiba, what makes him feel anxious, why is he not able to communicate… A ton of questions!
As any parent would do, we started looking at all that we didn’t have in place at home that may be causing this – we built a routine for him around play, got him off gadgets completely, made sure he ate well, he ate on time – all the basics – just to be sure, we have things under control. And then again, as many parents do today, we started “reading online”.
First, it started off as superficial reading, and soon, my husband was finishing ebooks after ebooks on topics around delayed milestones. Suddenly, we started bumping into the right resources, the right people, the right places – I believe that there is an unseen hand guiding us all the time, this time, I was reassured.
Thanks to all the reading my husband did and all the time we spent together as a couple in understanding our son, soon we narrowed down a wee bit – we started to feel that he was struggling with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). We started our search for therapists, we started changing a few things at home to help him feel better, and we started digesting the fact that our son was DEFINITELY battling something.
Within months, one thing led to the other, one therapy led to another, one investigation led to another and then the ‘A’ word dropped.
We were the parents of a Special Needs Child!
A sudden new label, new routines, new challenges and most importantly new CELEBRATIONS!
I turned to the childhood of my lovely daughter for a minute. She was a child who grew up literally “by the book”. I used to read about a milestone in a baby book and she would achieve that milestone that very week. People who met me when I had Laiba kept telling me that I got it so easy with parenting; people kept telling me she was such an easy child to handle. I used to feel WOW about it and just let her be. Laiba welcomed Hasan beautifully and everything seemed perfect and sometimes even too good to be true.
But as a family, we had to learn more, we had to get better, we had to become better parents and better human beings, we had to chase better things – HASAN made all this happen for all of us.
Today, as a special needs parent AND the parent of a neuro-typical child, I understand the value of every milestone. I understand what a miracle it is when the neurons fire and make the child respond.
I understand that the little things are the big things.
I thought “special” was a really cool word that makes people feel on top of the world. I now realize, it is not “special” that makes people feel on top of the world, it is the “ordinary” things that do!
I never relished it enough when Laiba spoke a string of sentences, today, I wait for Hasan to understand words and meaningfully string them together.
I never relished it enough when Laiba stood in front of the mirror as a toddler and tried combing her hair, today, I wait for Hasan to know the dynamics of how heavy the comb is, what angle he should keep it in, what stroke he should use and how he should coordinate his hand movement and eyes.
I never relished it enough when Laiba came and complained about her friend not sharing the toy with her, today, I wait for Hasan to come and rattle up words and express anger and disappointment in words.
I never relished it enough when Laiba hopped, skipped and jumped between birthday parties and played her head off, today, I wait to go for a birthday party with Hasan where I don’t get stared at, where I don’t get awkward questions, where I don’t hear “what problem does he have?”
As a mother I can keep listing the ordinaries I am waiting to achieve, I can keep listing the ordinaries I could have relished more. The truth today is, my life as a special needs parent revolves around achieving the ordinaries and celebrating them.
Today, as a family, we celebrate when Hasan combs his hair, says a few words, asks what he wants, learn to calm down and even goes to the potty.
Today, as a family, we celebrate Laiba’s milestones much more than ever before because we value them more than we did.
Being a special needs parent opened my eyes to the miracles of the ordinary.
If you are a parent of a special needs child, I hear you, I know you go through a riot in your head, I know you are wandering and wondering to make the future better – you will!
If you are a parent of a neuro-typical child – My plea is that you should be celebrating the fact that your child’s neurons are firing, you have a child who can handle activities of daily life (ADL) independently, your child may have flaws, may have areas of improvement – I DON’T KNOW YOU but I can bet my last rupee and say that there is a lot more your child has that you could celebrate.
Look for the ordinaries and celebrate them, relish it before it’s over!
As the cliché goes, there are only 936 weekends between you and your child before he/she chooses to fly out of the nest. Celebrate what you have and the miracle of parenting you are gifted with!
Ishwarya Kumar Ahmed is the c0-founder and director of Upturn Learning Solutions- A community organization in the space of parenting and childhood. She prides herself on being the mother of a special needs child and a neurotypical child.