Parenting is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even when I’m sleeping, I dream about my children. While being a parent is incredibly rewarding, it is quite possible the toughest job I’ve ever had.
For me, the tough part is learning how to best advocate for my children. I’m good at being assertive with companies that provide lousy customer service. I’m good at negotiating deals and helping businesses fix mistakes.
But when it comes to my children, it is much harder. When you have spent your entire life viewing teachers and doctors as authority figures, it can be difficult to challenge them.
My oldest was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic when he was 3.5 years old. He worked closely with special education teachers at his preschool and made leaps and bounds in terms of his progress. Then he nearly slipped through the cracks in kindergarten due to a misunderstanding between us and the staff at his school.
Had we not been diligent parents and constantly questioned what was happening, our son, who dearly loves school and is doing well academically, could very well have been forced to repeat kindergarten. He’s now a happy and bright first grader.
One of our twin sons did not speak any words when he was two – only vowel sounds – no consonants. Many friends and even our family doctor had a “wait and see” attitude. I knew that our little boy was really smart, but the words were just locked inside him. I told my doctor at his two-year check-up that I wasn’t leaving his office until he gave us the referral for speech therapy. He gave the referral, and with some additional help from his preschool, our little boy never stops talking and is able to clearly communicate all of the wonderful stories and ideas he has in his head.
Our other twin has a peanut allergy. We have had to be very diligent about all the food he comes in contact with, which is hard when sometimes even the closest family doesn’t think about the potential consequences. Every Halloween party or potluck is frightening to me.
It’s hard to have the kid that’s different. It’s hard to have three kids who are different.
But I am so lucky to have these three boys. They have made me a better person. They have helped me be more compassionate and kind. They have helped me see that it is important to be an advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves.
I have learned to ask more questions, to keep track of paperwork and documentation. I’ve learned how to find research and share what I have learned. I’ve learned that even the best parents, family members, teachers, and doctors make mistakes. I have learned that when you can establish a strong support system, you can establish success.
I can only imagine how different my boys’ lives would be if they didn’t have someone in their corner who made it their mission to help them.
My advice to you today is to push yourself to be an advocate. Advocate for yourself in the store when someone won’t accept your coupons. Advocate for your kids at school or at the doctor’s office. Advocate for your parents or grandparents who may need assisted living or long-term health care. Advocate for your pets at the veterinary clinic.
Reach out and help someone who needs it. The feeling you get from helping someone is better than the rush of getting a deal on anything you could ever buy.