One day in a coffee shop while standing with a friend waiting for our order, I commented about being thrilled that my daughter scored a 70 on a math final. A mother in front of me turned around with a puzzled look. For her, clearly, a 70 would not be something to celebrate. But after years and years of special education, special tutors, and special mother/daughter homework sessions, our celebration was also special: Never again would my daughter need to take math!
Other mothers may celebrate honor rolls, getting into key colleges, invitations to the “right” parties, leads in plays, wins on a sports field. That day, I realized I finally was at peace celebrating the victories that fit my daughter.
I wasn’t always at peace. I strived for the same celebrations as other moms. Maybe that could happen, I said to myself, if only…I pick the right tutors, advocate effectively enough in IEP meetings for the perfect IEP, research and pick the right interventions or programs. “If only,” I thought….If only I had been more understanding or knew better how to keep my daughter focused….maybe we would have some of the celebrations that other mothers shared.
At that coffee shop moment, I realized that mothers of children with special needs have special celebrations. Once we find those other mothers, we can celebrate together. One mother, whose son with autism was fascinated by toilets and plumbing parts, celebrated when she met another mother whose child had similar interests. During parent therapy weekend at a treatment program, a few moms shared hugs and a box of Kleenex when we listened to our teens — who had ventured into the world of drugs and other risky activities — share tender childhood memories of us, their mothers. Every time we share a small success, a milestone, or a tender moment, we celebrate by temporarily putting aside the worries that come with parenting children with special needs.
During the month of May, when Mother’s Day is celebrated, may all the mothers of children with special needs reach out to one another. Give each other a hug or bring over flowers. Celebrate what is to be celebrated…and celebrate that we have each other.