For the second time in a week, someone has said to me: “I know it’s not the same, but…” and then they go on to describe how their child has something going on that’s causing some kind of stress in the life of the family. When I can get past the thought that “not the same” is code for “not as bad as you have it”, I can see that this is just another parent reaching out and trying to tell me that they relate to me and my feelings- and simultaneously looking for someone to relate to theirs, too. They understand the feeling of worrying for a child, trying so hard to make a child happy, fit in, feel comfortable in his/her skin. They understand the powerlessness. So, please, stop comparing your problems to mine.
No one escapes unscathed.
My dad used to always tell me that “no one escapes this world unscathed.” What he meant was that we all have our struggles, our hurdles to overcome. I’m trying to acknowledge that we all have our “stuff” and yeah, it’s not the same, but whatever each of us is struggling with, it’s something big enough to us. Your feelings and fears are no less worthy of worry than mine, so don’t feel guilty for having your stuff or for not having enough stuff. It’s a continuum. There are certainly people in my own disability community and network of friends who might shake their heads at me if I express some feelings about my struggles raising my daughter when they might feel their hurdles are greater. It’s not a competition.
Maybe your child’s special need is different from mine, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know how I feel. Can we all stop feeling bad for having fears and feelings or for just having a plain ol’ hard time? We don’t need to justify our feelings. We don’t need to minimize them. Let’s just feel them. Let’s just relate to each other and support each other and get through it all together. In fact, right now, as you read this, I’m sending you a virtual high five because we’re all in it together!
Dani Gillman is Cofounder and Head of Marketing at Birdhouse– a Detroit-based startup empowering parents raising children with special needs to learn more about their children through a behavior journaling app for iPhone, Android and the web. She’s also mom to a 10 year old daughter (who happens to have Autism) and a 1 year old son (who has yet to appreciate the value of naps).