When I tell people my child has autism, they often fall silent. Then they tend to respond with reassurances or, worse, condolences. I realize their intentions are good; people are generally caring and concerned. But the fact is, no one has died.
Yes, we have experienced our share of struggles and, at times, even something approximating grief. But I wish people would save their sympathy for funerals. I also wish they wouldn’t bring God into it.
In the seven years since my son was diagnosed, I have heard countless clichés and explanations, including “God only gives you what you can handle” and “God has a plan for you.” None of us can speak with any authority about God’s master plan because no one knows.
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Let’s be clear: there’s nothing “special” about parenting a child with special needs. It is not a superpower that comes with a flashy red cape or a magic belt. If it’s a special mission or a divine assignment, God has not told me.
Sure, having a child with special needs means I have more responsibilities — extra appointments to go to, extra forms to fill in. But otherwise, my family looks much the same as anyone else’s. There are meals to cook, piles of toys and clothes to clean up, homework to help with. Like all parents, I love my kid hard and worry about him even harder. I’m also tired — okay, very tired — yet hopeful. Treating me like a “warrior” or “chosen one” is misguided.
Instead, see me for who I am: a mom doing the best she can. Open your mind. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Buy me a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine). Make me laugh. Take the dog for a walk. If you’re so inclined, pray for my family. Your prayers are the spiritual equivalent of warm thoughts and positive vibes, which I welcome.
And if you feel the need to say something helpful, say: “I’m here. You’re not alone.” Then find ways to prove it. I’m not religious, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus would have done.
This story was originally featured in Broadview’s July/August 2019 edition with the title “Watch your words.” To read more of Broadview’s award-winning content, subscribe to the magazine today.