The Special Needs Parenting Sweet Spot

It’s a struggle to stay rooted in the present. Memories of traumatic moments from the past seep in and thoughts of what “could” happen trickle through the cracks. These leaks can start to erode the “special needs parenting sweet spot.” 

“Be mindful!” I remind myself constantly. “All the good stuff is happening now! If you don’t open your eyes and breathe, you’ll miss it.” 

Sitting sandwiched between two conversations at my daughter’s adaptive soccer league last week I felt like my happy place was put in peril. As I sat on a cold metal bench watching wildly enthusiastic kids chase after soccer balls followed closely by their volunteer partners. I couldn’t help but hear the two conversations happening separately on either side of me. 

One pair talked about their young children recently diagnosed with complicated disorders. The fear, the confusion, the anxiety—I remember it well. The “beginning” is a unique kind of difficult. So many questions, so much anxiety—parents reaching out in desperation to anyone who might have answers, or at the very least offer some guidance. 

My stomach clenched as I listened to the despair in their voices. Though my compassion was overshadowed by my relief in having escaped the early days. The early days can be dark days. 

The pair on the other side of me talked about their older children who are blazing the trail ahead. I listened more intently to this conversation, wanting to hear it, but also silently willing them to change the subject. They discussed concepts I hadn’t yet considered—things I can easily start worrying about now. You know, just to be prepared. 

They talked about their special teens and spoke of hormones and school crushes and life skills classes and learning to ride the bus and count change. 

As much as my daughter’s medical challenges frightened me when she was little, the idea of her young adult years scares me on a new level. 

Since being unintentionally privy to that conversation, the questions have started percolating. How do I… how will she…. where do we… what happens when…??

These concerns threaten to destroy my current happy place.

We’re in the sweet spot of special needs parenting—our daughter at ten years old is happy. Her peers accept and love her. She isn’t teased or bullied. She feels safe. Better still, she is safe. Her seizures are under control. She is healthy and strong. Her next few years of therapies and education are planned. There are no major decisions to be made for the moment. 

The sweet spot feels normal, and to parents of a genetically complicated kid, normal is amazing. 

So for now I’ll stick my thumb in the worry hole and plug the dam to stop the past and future from flooding in, dampening our good time.

The trick is to remember (because sometime we forget) and to keep the hole firmly plugged. 


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