When You Have to Throw Out The Parenting Books

Do you remember how when your kids were babies, and they were teething, they would scream the house down? I mean, the crying just wouldn’t stop. Niggly and grumpy for days.

Not in our house. Little Person just wouldn’t go to sleep. It took us a while to work out the slightly mismatched red cheeks and not going to sleep were signs of teething. But actual crying was very rare.

We should have known then.

But it took me a while to throw the parenting books out entirely (even though nothing has been like they said in the books. Nothing.) Even within the paradigm of special needs, as her doctor neatly puts it “she doesn’t really fit into a box”. Her challenges, and her abilities, conflate each other when it comes to a diagnosis.

What to do?

I’ve written about giving up on the dreams I never knew I had, appreciating all the beauty and joy Little Person brings to my life, being brave. But you know what? I really thought they (the doctors and all the specialists that have been assessing my child) would be able to give me a label, a description, a prognosis. An idea of what I might be heading into. Nope.

So I guess I can throw out all that helpful advice you might get from the special needs community. When they say, create a safe space for your child, and I realise I am my child’s safe place. Which is fine. Until I need a break. And nobody can tell me how to make somewhere else her safe place, because, what kind of mother would want that, isn’t it sweet the way she loves you so much? (Yes. And no. I’m conflicted.)

But you can see how it can get awkward. It’s not that I want my daughter to have a label, or life-limiting condition. It’s just, I want to know how to help her. I have ten years of experience with children across ages 2-13, a postgraduate qualification in developmental psychology, and I haven’t gotten the faintest whiff of a farticle of a clue. Never encountered a child like her. Ever.

What to do?

I realised a few things though. In the midst of all this, is a beautiful soul trying to understand her world, trying to make her world a happier and a more beautiful place, to share a heart full of love, and hope, with those around her. In the midst of all this, is a child defined not by all she can’t do, but by her delight in all the things she can. A jumping, twirling, painting, laughing, tickling, singing, dancing, building, watching bundle of promise that relies on me to show her how amazing the world is, and how she has a unique, and beautiful, contribution to make.

What to do?

Throw out the books.

Burn the diagnosis sheets.

Take what help is offered to get her through the school day.

And then love.

Watch, observe, share, learn, listen, accept, trust, believe, promise, build, paint, live. Forget the what she can and can’t do lists. Find out who she is, and help her be that.

I know who she is now. Or at least a little bit.

She’s creative. She is much an observer of the world as I am.

So while the reality may be that I am a special needs mum, there’s a greater, more pressing truth. I’m raising a creative.

Now that’s something I can do.

(Maybe. But not if I have to fold the laundry too.)

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