2268 words • 12~20 min read

How I Learned It Would Be Okay

Welcome to the March 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With Special Needs

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how we parent despite and because of challenges thrown our way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I’m rocking the initials here, because I haven’t had a chance to chat with K’s mom online. While I know her well enough to know that she would be okay with my sharing my perspective on our time together — better safe than sorry.  

When I was 18 I nannied for a little boy (K). He had some severe asthma, but K was a bright, happy toddler who happened to trouble hearing that impeded his verbal development. By the time he was kindergarten — when I visited him last several years ago — you wouldn’t know he faced any obstacles as a toddler at all. In terms of having special needs, I suspect K was as lucky as you could get.

K was just three months when I met his mother (A); I was 14. He was the first openly breastfed baby I met; when A pumped, she did it while I was there and was even comfortable with that fact that I stared in open awe. In the coming years K was the first child I watched overnight; A’s family was the first I met that co-slept. A was first mother I met who was really different, and I was amazed.

Seeing the way A raised K influences a lot of my parenting, even eleven years after I first met her — especially because of all the challenges K (and A, as his mother) faced.

About a month after I graduated high school I moved in with A and K, who was three. We were great friends, and she worked long hours in healthcare. I lived with them for six months, and I probably learned more than I left behind.

Let me give you some background. K’s asthma was so severe that he took two medications every morning. We were always on alert for things that might stuff him up, because they could rapidly become emergencies. I took him to his first fireworks display that July with a diaper bag full of emergency supplies, just in case the smoke gave him trouble. Anything that caused him to get stuffed up was a problem. When a cold hit the house, we went on full alert.

More difficult was the communication. I admit that at 18 I didn’t really grasp the problem, but it boiled down to this: K couldn’t hear sounds correctly, and thus wasn’t able to speak. If you didn’t know K, you didn’t understand him — it was that simple. A was divorced, and when K’s dad would call he didn’t understand a word he said on the phone.

Living with A was difficult, but she taught me a lot about how to be a parent. More than the style and values I picked up from her, there was more to it than that. A was under a lot of pressure, and I got to see what parenting gracefully under pressure looked like — and sometimes, what it looked like when it fell apart.

She never, ever treated K like he was broken. Sometimes he would just lose it, being so frustrated that he couldn’t communicate. It would stress me out — it would stress her out — but she took everything as it came. She didn’t try to control things she couldn’t, while staying as informed as possible on what she needed to do as his mother.

She never shied away from the fact that her son had problems speaking. If someone wanted to know why he couldn’t speak correctly, she just told them: “He has trouble hearing, so he doesn’t know the right sounds.” There was never any shame to it. She never got upset when people didn’t understand, even if she would rant later if they chose to be rude or dismissive.

She taught me that it’s okay to accept help. And that it’s okay not to have it all together all the time. Sometimes, while K was otherwise occupied, we would sit on our porch and she would just unravel. She loved her son, completely and absolutely, and was still sometimes be so utterly exhausted with him.

She taught me not to worry. Worrying wasn’t going to change what K was going through.

Now that I have a three-year-old of my own, I recognized the signs that he was behind verbally — it’s rather uncanny.  His doctor confirmed our concern, so next month he’s scheduled for an evaluation handled by the local school district.

I’m not worried. Whether his delay is because he doesn’t have the right outlet to develop his language skills or because of something more serious, I have an idea of what’s ahead and how to deal.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 13 with all the carnival links.)