One of the little secrets of parenting that no one likes to talk about is that we all want to win. I know, I know, parenting is not a competition.
But it kind of is. It’s a competition with yourself to have your kids turn out in the way that you believe is best for them. I’m not talking about making them something they’re not. (Though sadly, some people see it this way ).
I mean having kids choose to play a sport you played, or go to your alma mater or love reading as much as you do. For instance, my typical child loves language. He has a broad vocabulary, a sense of humour and grasp of sarcasm that exceeds his years and I love it. I’m a word person and I’m so pleased that he follows in my footsteps – #winparenting. I know others who are stoked that their children have grown to pay no heed to expected gender norms, and others still who love that their kids would much rather chase bugs than watch TV. win. win. win.
With Allie, my wins very different. They’re functional wins. A word! yes! A movement that means we’re closer to walking. Hells yeah. But my heart still aches when I think of all the little wants and wishes that will likely never come to pass in the way I imagined before. Parenting a child with a disability like Williams syndrome brings moments that sting.
Tell a book lover that there’s a chance your child will never have the capacity to read at all, or a runner that their child may never be surefooted enough to make it around the track. Those are the little losses that make receiving a diagnosis sting in the darkest parts a parent’s heart.
As one who tends not to take no for answer, I’m inclined to see those areas as ones that need special attention. They may never happen, but I’m not planning on letting them go without a fight.
As I was watching the inspiring opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Games in LA this past weekend, I was very taken by the stories of the athletes, the joy on the face of everyone in attendance and the history of the Special Olympics movement. Wow. I went through a serious amount of Kleenex.
There are countless athletes there this week with the same syndrome as Allie and they are kicking butt. Medals in gymnastics? Swimming? Amazing.
I was particularly taken by the Special Olympian Oath.
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
It will never be me in that athletes parade, but I feel the parents in the stand live the oath too in their own way. In the face of every Mom and Dad cheering, supporting and reveling in the day, it was clear that getting from where they started to the games was a hard fought battle for the whole family. In making it there, they were already winners.
Parenting is a hard sport. Parenting a child with exceptional needs is harder.
We still want to win on our own ways. Sure, we’re told to expect less. But should we listen?
I think I’ll choose not to. Not after seeing those 6500 athletes march proudly into the stadium. Not after seeing those parents rejoicing in the stands.
From this day forth, I will bring all my fullest hopes to the parenting game. I will believe harder and push further and, if I find myself close to giving up, I will find a new way. I will not let others low expectations set the bar for what might be achieved.
Let me #winparenting.
Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.
PS: Two days after seeing the Opening Ceremonies, I enrolled Allie in the Special Olympics program. Did you know they start at age 2? She starts in the fall. I can’t wait. Maybe she’ll be in that athletes parade one day.