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Special Needs Parenting: When the Storm Hits

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
07/13/18  12:36 PM PST
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Special Needs Parenting: When the Storm Hits

Summer storms are fast and furious. One minute you are sweating through a heavy blanket of humidity, wilting like the daisies, and the next the sky cracks open. Water falls hard and fast and warm and you hunker down wherever you are until it passes, knowing that it will pass soon enough.

The problem is, you can’t always be safe and sound when the storm hits.

I was on my way home with a van full of groceries and my son, Charlie, who is six and has cerebral palsy, when the rain came. It wasn’t a drizzle. It was torrential. It was a downpour that ripped branches from trees and turned ditches into creeks and even with the windshield wipers on full-speed it still wasn’t enough.

We rolled through the neighborhood at a crawl and then pulled into the driveway and sat. The car rocked gently from the wind. Inside it was okay. Inside it was air-conditioned and Charlie was happy enough to watch Paw Patrol on the DVD player. But I couldn’t wait it out. I had ice cream in the back and yogurt and all the other things that were melting and fermenting as I sat.

I had to dive into the storm.

My umbrella blew inside out. Immediately the left half of my body was soaked. Rain turned to hail. Ten minutes later I had all the groceries bags in a wet pile on the kitchen floor. And then I had to go back for Charlie. He, of course, loved the storm. I didn’t want to risk getting the wheelchair soaked, so I hefted all forty pounds of him onto my hip and prayed I wouldn’t slip. The rain whipped his hair and his slick body clung to mine. And then, two minutes after we were all safe and sound inside, the sun came out hot enough to make the wet sidewalks steam. We went back outside to pick up the hail like seashells on the beach.

When you are parenting a child with special needs, there will always be storms or the potential for storm. Kids get sick. Insurance companies turn down claims. You move towns, switch school districts, have more kids. Life is about unexpected situations and how we weather them.

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I don’t love the idea of the glass half full or half empty. One seems naïve and the other seems too cynical. But I think you can be a rational optimist. I think you can accept the fact that some things are going to be difficult and then choose to be brave. Because what other choice to you have?

I refuse to live in the shadow of potential storms, but I also refuse to pretend they don’t exist. I’ve been around the block enough times to know we can be both hopeful and practical in our parenting. We can be brave and cautious. We can feel the hard hours, days, years and also the golden ones.

You can’t hide in the house on the off chance a storm will hit. Sometimes you’ve just got to press forward, get the groceries, send your kid to the new school, wade through the developmental setback and then keep on walking until the sun comes out again. Summer storms are as sudden and unpredictable as life. But one thing that is certain is that they end—finished as fast and furiously as they began.

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special needs parents

Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom, author and blogger.

Discover her new book, Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood.

Read her blog, The Mom Gene.

Follow her on Facebook.


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