Earlier this month, I turned 34. We also found out are third child will be a little girl. Oh yeah, and this month marks my first full decade of being a speech-language pathologist. Lots of milestones; markenings of the past, the present, and the future.
Looking back, the past decade has been crazy. During this time I’ve gotten a job in Charleston, met a girl, married her, had three kids, and started my own business. It’s been non-stop for a long time. More often than not, I feel like I’m learning as I go.
During this time, people, all with good intentions, have offered their advice. When I was engaged, I was given books to read about what it was like to be married. When we were pregnant, I took a class at the hospital and read more books about living with a newborn. And while all of this was nice, and maybe even important, the real way I learned about these milestones was experience.
No one can tell you what it’s like to be married, because you won’t understand until you are married.
No one can tell you what it’s like to have children, because you won’t understand until you have children.
And no one, even therapists with decades of experience, can tell you what it’s like to live with a child with special needs, because you can never fully understand until you live it.
Daily, I tell parents things they should do when they get home to help their children. But, I don’t go home with them. Sometimes, it’s easy to give guidance if you get to go home to your own life at the end of the day.
What I’m saying is this: I have to keep in mind that while I might have good ideas and experiences to draw from, I don’t know what it’s like to go home and spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a special needs child. I don’t understand the tears that come when you realize that they may never feed themselves. I don’t understand the guilt that comes with feeling like you are neglecting your other kids or your spouse so you can be there for your child with special needs. These, for me, are just concepts and ideas I’ve read about.
I try to keep this in mind when a family doesn’t follow-up with homework or when they don’t take my advice. It’s not personal. It’s life. Lots of families I know just want to make it through the end of the day.
One more thing: I’m not implying that books and blogs and professionals with insights better than mine aren’t important. When I got married it was good to know that the tough times were a normal part of the process. I think the same thing applies here. We all need to listen in different ways.
We all need to be heard, but we also all need to listen.