This month I have been a Special Needs mum for twenty seven years. "You're so strong" are words I've heard so often throughout the years, but the truth is, I'm not. I'm just a mum doing what I have to do, there is nothing strong, or brave or amazing about it. It's just parenting. Maybe it's a little different to regular parenting but in all honesty, how would I know?
When my first child was born I was just twenty one, which seems so young now. I was married and we both had jobs and a place of our own. A child was the next step, even though we were moving so fast. It was a difficult birth and he was a difficult baby but he was mine and I adored him. We had a daughter just seventeen months later and then moved to a bigger house. The kids went to school and I went back to work and everything went along just fine.
The teachers complained about my son, they said he was un co-operative, disruptive in class and refused to listen to them. They gave me the number of a child psychologist, I put it on the bookshelf and ignored it. There was nothing wrong with my son.
He moved up to Secondary school and things got worse, much worse.
I took him to the psychologist and he was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.
By this time my husband was no longer on the scene, and for a while I did find things really tough. I did have to be strong to get through it all. I had lots of other stuff going on as well, they say it never rains but pours.
Fast forward a few years and I'm a single mum, no longer working and have two young teenage children out of regular education. Maybe if I'd been stronger things would have been better?
Then I met my current partner and we had children and our first child is also diagnosed on the autistic spectrum. This time I didn't bury my head in the sand, as soon as the signs were showing we had her diagnosed and the proper help put in place at school. Things have been difficult but we've muddled through. Things have been tough. Have I been strong? Sometimes maybe, sometimes not so.
When someone tells me they think I must be so strong I feel a little embarrassed, I feel a fake, I don't feel as though I'm strong. There are so many things I would have done differently if I'd had the strength, so many more battles I would have won had I been strong. There have been so, so many times when I haven't felt strong at all, I've felt like a quivering wimp and there have been many tears.
I can be strong though. I can fight in their corner and make sure they get treated right. I can stand up for them, look out for them and at the same time teach them their independence.
A child with special needs can mean more hard work for the parent and for longer, but they also bring their own rewards and one of those is teaching their parents how to be strong.