My Parenting Journey…What Will The Future Hold?
My Parenting Journey: What Will The Future Hold?
I remember as if it were yesterday … the first day of preschool for my daughter. There were so many questions and unknowns. Would she ever be able to talk? Would she learn? Would she have friends? Am I a good parent? How can I continue to be a strong advocate and have a positive relationship with the people at the school? Will our family be able to survive with all of the added stress and responsibilities of having a child with a disability?
When I was beginning this journey as a parent and as an advocate, I remember learning about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and hearing a quote from the law. Part of it said that the law was to ensure “equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.” At the time, I couldn’t even fathom those things for my daughter. Now I know that focusing on equality of opportunity and full participation, not only in school, but also in life, was one of the most important things I could have done.
My daughter has grown up knowing that if she wants to do or try something, we will figure it out and will try to make a way for it to happen. Helping her learn to be independent in high school with getting herself out of bed and ready for the day, getting herself to the bus in the morning, and working on getting the night time routine done (in a reasonable amount of time) have been some of the best precursors to prepare her for getting up and ready for a part-time job, figuring out her transportation issues for the day, and making checklists for all sorts of tasks. When the time came for her to be finished with school, I felt as if I had been released from jail … really a prison of my own making.
During her school years I was filled with stress, worry, and questions. What if I haven’t been a good parent? What if I didn’t advocate effectively enough? What if she is lonely throughout her lifetime? As she finished, I realized that the answers had come through patience and persistence. I had done what needed to be done throughout her life. I tried to stay in the middle of the two extremes of “doing it all for her” and “leaving her without any support”. I had facilitated opportunities for her to have lasting friendships. I had helped teach her how to advocate for herself and get what she wants and needs.
Fast forward to today – 19 years after that first day of preschool. The questions were big but the answers did come. Year after year the questions became bigger and sometimes harder. And those newer, bigger questions were also answered – sometimes with surprises, sometimes with disappointment, and sometimes with more questions. As she approached graduation from high school three years ago, there were so many new and different questions. This biggest question “What will the future hold?” weighed heavily on my mind.
My daughter is now a young adult with activities and interests of her own. She continues to have new experiences and become more independent. Of course there are still questions. There are still times when I wonder what the future will be. But I have those for every area of my life … so I think it’s normal.
If you are filled with stress and worry about your effectiveness as an advocate and parent, I encourage you to give yourself a break. You are making the best decisions that you know how to make and they are the best decisions for your child! There is a quote that says, “We will never arrive at our destination because the journey is parenthood.” That may be especially true for those of us who are parenting children with disabilities and special health care needs. No matter where you are in your journey, you are doing a great job! You are a terrific parent!
Editor’s Note: Getting connected to other parents can help you throughout your child’s life…from newborn to school age to adulthood. Being able to hear from other parents how they handle challenges can help you feel that you are not alone on your parenting journey. You also have a ready resource for all of those “life questions” you are wondering about. Are YOU Connected? Joining our Online Parent Support group is free and easy!
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