Appreciating the pit crew in special needs parenting
Before parenting children with special needs… driving alone
I know this statement will seem a bit counter-Christian. But sometimes I think all any of us are really trying to do is create mini kingdoms.
People need to rule. We need to be noticed. We crave praise. And we need others to notice that we can actually handle our lives.
Or at least, if I am honest, I do.
So we build little universes. Oh, we think that we live here on this big ball called earth, but actually, at least in America…
I think we live in our cars.
Think about it. We’re individuals. We don’t need help from others. Even as Christians, as people who are supposed to live in community and put others before ourselves, we still fight the urge to create the facade that we have it all together on our own. Most of the time we are unaware of it, sometimes we fight it, other times we seek it out. We drive on streets and avenues, highways and bypasses in our Hondas and SUVs like they are our world, and we are the center of it. Once in a while we pull up to another person’s universe and roll down the window for a chat, then quickly say our goodbyes and speed off again.
We fight the desire to rule our own little worlds.
But sometimes the pull to rule is just too hard.
Parenting children with special needs
Before the birth of my baby with Down syndrome, I was pretty successful at creating and functioning well in my own little universe. Baby, I could drive my car! I ruled. I was untouchable, safe. My life sped forward.
Then Polly was born, and right away, I found myself driving through the worst rainstorm of my life. I tried to move forward but my tires were flat, and the windshield wiper clogged up. I couldn’t see.
Strangers, others from parallel universes, started knocking on the windows of my life. Therapists, doctors, other special needs parents, prayer warriors, friends, and family all opened up doors and let themselves in. They pushed the roominess out of my life, making it hard for me to feel like I had any control of anything at all.
I didn’t want passengers.
I’m a mom.
I wanted to be able to do everything Polly needed myself.
The truth is that we need a pit crew
When you have a child with special needs, you realize quickly that there is no way you can keep driving alone.
When you are a parent to a child with special needs: Down syndrome, or autism, or cerebral palsy, or bipolar disorder, you realize that the passengers in your car, the people who have opened up your life (invited or uninvited) are vital to your family’s well-being.
You realize that maybe, just maybe, life is better with a car full of support.
Maybe this really was how life was meant to be; not just trusting and relying on yourself, but having a pit crew, ready to help you when you get a flat, passing you a cold drink, or helping you when you need to get out of the car quick.
Parenting a child with special needs forces you to share your life. It’s not always easy, but there are some really good things about living this way.
I’ve come to love the people who work in the pit of my life to keep our family moving along. Friends, our church, therapists, doctors, family, teachers.
And Jesus. I can’t forget Jesus. The one who was actually there all along, before the idea of children or the need of a pit crew crossed my mind. The creator of community, the ultimate member of my pit crew. Is it possible that through the challenges and joys of parenting, he continues to show me how much sweeter life can be when I’m not just trying to drive alone?
If it weren’t for my pit crew, I surely would have crashed by now.
Parents of kids with special needs? Who do you have in your pit crew? Take a moment today and let them know you appreciate them. And leave a message here telling us about it.