Thank you Parenting Times Magazine for the opportunity to participate in your Parent & Child EXPO this past weekend.
I feel fortunate to have been able to connect with so many, for as alone as one might feel on their journey I understand first hand the relief to discover you are not.
As others have been and continue to be there for me I feel it important to offer and pay forward the same support. Participating in the Parenting Times EXPO allowed me to share my knowledge of resources, recipes and safe snacks, but mostly as hello's turned into teary hugs, I was able to celebrate not what I see as connections, but as friendships found.
Parenting is hard enough, but as special needs parents we can feel disconnected from others as well an overwhelming sense life has heaped way to much onto not just our shoulders but on top our heads. One parent asked me if I had just one tip to offer what would it be, my answer, you must learn it is ok to allow others, if even for a moment to wear your cap(s).
I remember reading to my daughter a children's book called "Caps For Sale" by Esphyr Slobodkina. A peddler walks about wearing his entire inventory of caps upon his head, after napping against a tree he awakens to find his wares have been stolen by a troop of monkeys perched upon the branches high above him. Although the peddler's intent was to sell his caps, once removed (albeit non gratuitously) the peddler found the loss discerning and demanded the return of his caps. This story resonates with me as a parallel to special needs parenting.
We all start out with one hat, think back to grade school friends, when referring to them now even in adult hood it is almost always by first and last name. Our 'hat' was simple, like the hand printed name tag our teacher taped to the front of our desk, that was it, 'just' Michelle Nel!
Over time as life happened I somehow went from wearing one hat to balancing an almost comical assortment of chapeaus. It seems as soon as I become accustomed to those caps already stacked, a further is placed on top requiring the regaining of my balance yet again.
The fact has been over the past few years I have needed help, something I found extremely hard to admit as well ask for.
In accepting help it was as if I was allowing another to not just wear but take one of my hats. This left me questioning my own perceived failure regarding why could I not do this all on my own.
But the fact is, you can wear all your hats, demand them back if others try take one, but with them all stacked upon your head the burden WILL become too much. Sometimes it is nice to go for a walk without having to worry about the precarious art of balance.
I learned to not only accept but to appreciate help just as I realized it was not only ok for others to wear one of my caps from time to time but that it in no way devalued all I have and continue to achieve on my own. Be it accommodations made, acts of empathy, offering inclusion for my son, or showing compassion for myself, I am so very grateful. I see now that by allowing others to share my caps, my balance is strengthened for the days I must wear them all on my own.
And on the days my strength gives way but stubbornness sustains, friends and family will quietly reach down from the branches above and steal a hat or two, just to allow me a respite of relief.
I would never choose to wear so many 'hats'. Seriously, I'll admit it, I have had my moments green with envy of those who seem able to wear one super cute hat which 'just saying' is not only more fashionable but also allows the option of better hair days.
Yes there is initial dismay when another cap gets stacked upon my head, I mean who wants to join another club! But for the company encountered there are none more amazing than those I have happened upon while navigating this journey.
And although each learning curve causes my caps to cascade, I always manage (now) with the assistance of others, to stack them back up, and to continue on my way.
"Caps for sale", but not mine. I think I've become accustomed to the eclectic fit and the humor in my array of hats. But if I may, I graciously decline the donning of another. =)
Michelle began writing in hopes of providing a fun yet informative manner in which to share allergy information. Her son Nolan since infancy has had eczema, asthma, multiple anaphylactic food allergies as well as multiple environmental allergies. Michelle's son also has autism, ADHD and a severe language delay. Michelle sees not disabilities but celebrates different abilities and sees the beauty found in thinking outside the box!
Jennifer Terry is a graphic designer/illustrator living in Denver, Colorado, USA. Her daughter, Lauren, is a middle school student, active in musical theatre, who also happens to have anaphylactic food allergies.
Inspired by Lauren Jennifer shares her whimsical art on the pages of these books, in an effort to help make learning about food allergies fun for children, parents, teachers and caregivers.