Special needs parents talk occasionally about a kind of grieving process, where we learn to let go of the child we imagined we would have and open our hearts and our worlds to the unique and challenging kid we have been given instead. It can be a controversial idea to some, or at least the public expression of it can be. I personally believe it’s a process that causes a great many special needs parents a lot of anxiety and guilt, and I think it’s an important topic to discuss.
The good news is, I’m not going to talk about it today. Not exactly.
There’s a similar thing that happens to some of us as our kids get older. It begins when we seriously start to deal with some of the bigger transitions for our kids. We see the future coming and we try to plan for that. We try to find the path that’s going to meet with success. We see the roads that become available, and we pick one.
Sometimes we pick wrong.
As to Schuyler’s situation, I don’t need to spell it all out. I’ll simply say that some of the assumptions we’ve been operating under have not panned out. Some very central aspects of our daughter’s academic future will be very different than what we had all planned on. The path we’d chosen for her is not the one she will take, not for now. Her place among her classmates will be more segregated than we’d hoped.
And we recognize, painfully, that this is how it needs to be.
I’m writing about what I’m feeling here because I think it might be almost as common among special needs parents as that early grieving process. When we buy into a Way That Things Shall Be, it can be hard to let that Way go. Harder than even we realize, because there are so few narratives on which we may depend, and when they disappear, blown away like morning fog, there’s not much in our reserves to take their place. The Way was important, and the Way didn’t work out.
I’m not sure how I feel now. Perhaps I feel guilt for pushing Schuyler to succeed and perhaps setting her up to fail. Or maybe I feel like we’re the ones who have failed her somehow.
Or perhaps I just feel a void, one where all our expectations used to live. It’ll be filled soon enough, and we’ll have new expectations. Perhaps smaller, certainly more realistic. Perhaps that’s how it goes with all children as their paths become their own.
It’s tiring after a while, having the rug yanked out from under me. You’d think I would be lighter on my feet by now.
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