Late last year, Steve and I were invited to two parent evenings with the boy’s schools. One was a parents’ night for Jax’s school, and it was a nice evening. We’re not very good at doing the school thing, but there are some good people and we know we should try harder. Challenging when one of us is often away.
However, a week before this I was invited to a ladies’ night for Lex’s school, and as you’ll probably know, Lex is still in a special needs school here in Singapore.
This night knocked it out of the park – it was amazing – and I’ve thought about it a lot since.
I’d already missed a ladies’ night with this gang earlier in the year. The truth is I didn’t prioritize it because past experiences of parents around special needs schools just hasn’t worked for me. Individuals yes, gangs no. I’m also not the biggest fan of lady only events. I like blokes too.
Anyhoo my friend Rachel told me I had to come because the last one was a blast, and well, Rachel knows!
I had no idea what to expect, but Rachel was there early with a bottle of Verve on ice, as good as any place to start. Over the next hour the rest of the ladies arrived. All were dressed up and looking fabulous and it was an international crowd, coming from every corner of the globe. They were all ready to party too.
As the bubbles did their job (and we only drank Verve that night – quite right) my word what a conversation we had. You see this group of women have something in common that no one without a special needs experience (or seriously ill child) can understand.
We’ve all had to come to terms with the worst rejection of all – the rejection of our children – by mainstream schools, special needs schools, families, friends, you name it. This rejection almost always comes with very little empathy. No one understands how much that hurts.
We’ve all experienced raised eye brows as our mini-loves do something a little bit weird.
We’ve all had to come to terms with the fact – for the short term or the long term – our child will not be able to have a “normal” education and maybe they won’t have a normal life either.
We’ve had to come to terms with cultural rejection, especially those who come from societies where any sort of disability is seen as something to be ashamed of. We had many ladies in this category that evening.
We’ve had to come to terms with people not being able to see the beautiful souls of our children and can only see the surface challenges. Ahhh the beauty they are missing.
We’ve had to come to terms with a world desperate to put a label on our children because it makes everyone else’s life easier, and yet it might be the very thing that destroys our child’s future potential.
We’ve had to endure the enormous physical challenges that come with raising a child who has special needs. Some of the children need to be constantly held because they can’t walk properly. Some need to be constantly monitored because they have a different sense of danger. Some are prone to emotional outbursts that are hard to take in public with the judgmental stares of strangers. And while I have not had to face these things with Lex, I have watched parents handle these challenges and I know the exhaustion that comes with it, and the relentlessness that comes with it too. Parenting is already relentless. Parenting with this on top is extremely challenging.
We’ve also had to face the emotional anxiety that comes with just wanting your child to fit in, to be accepted, to have the life you want for them. I know Lex will eventually have this, I know this is not the case for everyone.
We’ve all had to face our own self-doubts. We’ve struggled with children who demand something you don’t always have the energy to give. For me it’s been patience. For the others I’m sure they have their own thing.
And we’ve struggled on so many other levels.
Our struggles have each been unique. But all have struggled on a level of emotional intensity that most people never see in this life. It is raw and it is powerful, because it is about wanting only the very best for your child, and succeeding is not always apparent.
The thing is, we didn’t talk about any of this that night and of course, I’m talking for ladies who can talk for themselves. But this was my underlying sense of the evening. The thing we had in common.
We talked about a lot of other stuff of course and we were completely outrageous. It was hilarious. I also know that if anyone tried to get into our gang that evening, they would have been promptly told to fuck off. We didn’t need anyone else.
My sense was that everyone felt safe being amongst this beautiful gang of women who had been stripped to the emotional bone and survived. We were being embraced within a shared experience. We just didn’t need to talk about it.
I can’t think of any other evening where a group of people bonded on such a raw, human level, that can only come from all of us having lived through the agony of a child that is struggling. Whether it’s special needs or a serious illness, I think parents who go through these experiences can relate, and that night, I realized a community like this is important to me too. Why did I stay away from it for so long?
I’ve thought about that night a lot since. I loved spending time with those crazy gals. Perhaps it is time for another ladies’ night, but this time a Friday? Shit I had a hangover the next day.
For anyone else who has been in a similar struggle, can you relate? Do you have your gang of outrageous people to back you up?
Yours, without the bollocks
BTW I’m on Twitter here, Google+ here, Instagram here, and Facebook too, if you’re interested in the other stuff I share. Feel free to share my blog if you think anyone you know will be interested or entertained. I sure do appreciate it when you do xxxxx