Special needs

Special-needs parenting: Everyday emotional triggers

Anchel Krishna discusses the tricky, recurring moments of grief she deals with as a parent of a little girl with special needs.

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When it comes to her four-year-old daughter Syona, Anchel still goes through periods of grieving.

When it comes to special needs parenting, the grief that’s associated with defining your “new normal” is often a topic of conversation. For those of us who live this reality, we understand grief is an ongoing part of reaching acceptance. It never ends. Sometimes the big things—like birthdays, missed milestones and diagnosis anniversaries—bring grief. But sometimes it can sneak in through little, insignificant moments that surprise you.

A few weeks ago, I was on my way to work. With a long drive ahead of me I stopped at our local gas station and coffee shop. There was a mom and her young daughter in front of me, sharing a pretty typical exchange, figuring out what they were going to order. Once they were done, the mom told her daughter to put her gloves on. The girl searched for her gloves and it became clear she had left them behind somewhere, along with a few other items. The mom reprimanded her daughter and asked her why she was so disorganized on this particular morning. And, whoosh, there it was, as cold as the winter wind—grief. And what triggered it? Well, I wasn’t sure if Syona would ever wear gloves because it’s hard for her fingers to separate because of her cerebral palsy. Would Syona ever be as disorganized as this little girl? The thought of ever reprimanding Syona for forgetting something is so far removed from our current reality.

Let me be clear—I am not at all critical of this mom for what she was saying to her daughter. She was right. It’s important that we work with our kids to teach them these skills. I’m sure it is something that my parents said to me, and many of your parents said to you. But I looked at this mom and her daughter and I grieved, because I didn’t know if I would ever have a similar exchange with Syona. So I did what I’ve learned to do—let myself feel the emotional lows and accept it for what it is. I’ve realized a few things: This little girl was probably seven or eight—a few years older than Syona. A few short years can make a big difference when you have kids, especially when you have kids with special needs. Most importantly, I realized that Syona is already somewhat responsible for organizing her time and activities. We give her choices of what she wants to do and activities to sign up for every season. Down the road I expect that her responsibilities will increase. Although she may not run around the house throwing her gloves and other items into her backpack, we will have expectations for her to organize her belongings in some capacity.

By the time I drove out of the parking lot that day, my grief had passed. Sometimes these moments of are short; sometimes they’re longer. And sometimes you realize that grief actually isn’t grief at all, but just another example of processing your reality.

How do you keep it all in perspective?

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.