Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Parenting Expectations

I always knew I wanted to be a mom.  Sometimes I'd imagine what it'd be like, and think of the values I'd teach them, the things we'd do together, the places we'd go.

I was an English teacher for three years.  I could usually tell by the end of the first week of school which parents were the type of parent I wanted to be.  Their kids were the ones who would read with fluidity, which meant they had been read to as a child.  A lot.  Their kids were the ones who always had their homework turned in, their papers signed, their boxes of tissues turned in.  They were the parents who showed up at Back to School Night to meet the teachers and see the classrooms and smile at their kid's handiwork.

I sat in on a few IEP meetings as a teacher (that's an Individualized Education Plan for those that don't know).  In some of the meetings parents would ask for specific accommodations and goals for their children.  I admired that, but honestly knew there was no way I could meet all the accommodations, when I already had 130 students with diverse needs and interests and learning styles.  There were also some meetings where the parent sat there, looking lost and afraid.  Those meetings were always faster, easier, but I felt bad for those parents, for that kid we were meeting about.

But now, I'm a parent.  One who sits in IEP meetings for my own children.  Yes, children.  Both kiddos have IEPs now.  And basically, there's a lot of things I didn't imagine or expect about being a parent.  I didn't expect to be sitting on the other end of the IEP table, fighting for more accommodations, more specific goals.

I didn't expect my life to revolve around so many appointments.

I didn't expect that physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, audiologists, ENTs, nutritionists, and other specialists would be people I'd ever have to see, let alone as frequently as I do.

I didn't expect my spare time to be filled with researching supplements, therapies, speech games and techniques, etc.

I didn't expect to spend thousands of dollars on therapies, supplements, educational books and materials, conferences, camps, etc each year to teach my child what comes so easily to other children.

I didn't expect to find play dates so dang hard.  1) Because when do you squeeze them in when you have anywhere between 5-9 appointments a week?  And 2) with who do you meet for play dates?  When do you have time to maintain friendships?  And 3) why would I want to torture myself?  I mean, I've been known to cry on the way home from play dates, because I can see how far behind my kiddos are from their peers, or even kids two or three years younger than mine, and it hurts to see that.

I didn't expect that seeing kids saying and doing things so effortlessly and adorably could make me feel so sad and defeated.

I didn't expect to feel so overwhelmed, anxious, defeated, exhausted, lonely and uncertain.

I didn't expect I'd know and experience acronyms and words like ABR vs. OAE, apraxia vs. dyspraxia, expressive vs. receptive, proprioception and vestibular, prosody and articulation, bilabials and velars and alveolars, ideation and motor planning, and a ridiculous number of other words, including schwa.  Yes, schwa is a real word, and I think about all these words daily.

I didn't expect I'd be on Facebook for the support groups rather than for seeing what friends and family are doing and what the latest trends and news are and posting my own cute videos and photos of the kiddos.

I didn't expect that I'd have more phone numbers of therapists and clinics in my contact list than friends and family members.  Or that I'd see them more than friends and family.

Basically, I didn't expect to be a special needs parent.

BUT, I also didn't expect that I would love these little guys as much and as fiercely as I do.

I didn't expect that I would be so stinkin' proud of them.  Of who they are and what they do, of what they're passionate about and gifted in, and of what they say.

I didn't expect that I would experience so much joy with every new word, every new skill, every new thing.  There's a reason I call every hard earned milestone a victory, and every new word or phrase 'sweet'.

I didn't expect to grow into a stronger, more confident person than I was before I had children.

I didn't expect that parenting would grow me so much closer to God.

I didn't expect to feel so much closer to my husband as we share in this journey together.

I didn't expect my children would be such a huge blessing and bring such joy to my life.

I didn't expect that being a parent would enrich my life, my purpose, my faith, my character as much as it has.

Though sometimes I wonder what my life what would be like if my kids were talking and playing and jumping like their peers, I honestly can't imagine it. I don't know anything except what I have in front of me, and I know my kiddos are awesome and I would do everything in my power to help them become all that God wants them to be.

I don't think any parent experiences all they expected of parenting. And that's what makes the journey so interesting.  Worth traveling.  Because it honestly exceeds your expectations.

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