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Challenge: Finding Your Village

To the Friends Who Love My Wild Children by Choice

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Last week someone I love dearly told me, through the enigma that is social media, that they did not agree with choices I was making as I mother my son with invisible disabilities. I am still not over it.

Parenting is the hardest job I have. Yes, being a wife can be trying at times, but my husband is an adult so we can talk it out. Trying to rationally discuss a repeating problem with my children sometimes feels like I am negotiating with pint-sized terrorists.

We have a two year old girl who has zero fear, sass for days, and to say she is curious would win you the Understatement of the Year award. Our son is hysterically funny, creative, and so tenderhearted; he also has several behavioral and sensory diagnosis that make his ability to regulate his emotions and control his impulses next to impossible. Parenting this wild crew could bring the most perfect Pinteresty mama to her knees.

Friends, I love my kids. I mean, I love them to the core of who I am. I love every freckle and every snuggle just as much as I love them through big, wet tears and tantrums that rattle the walls. But, in the end, I am just a mom doing the best that I can and I am fully aware that I won’t get everything right.

Our family chose to live tiny over a year ago to afford for us to be a one income household so one of us could stay home and Roadschool our kids. This allows us to cater our son’s curriculum to his strengths as well as allow appropriate time to improve his weaker areas. Shedding our big house, 15 acres of upkeep, and burdening mortgage helped give us this freedom.

We knew we’d face some adversity with the decision to go tiny. We knew others still would judge us for opting out of public school; I had taught in that school system for four years so it wasn’t an easy decision. We also knew we’d be mocked for some of our parenting choices because raising a child with special needs doesn’t come with an instruction manual and every single day brings with it it’s own new challenges–completely different, sometimes, than the day before.

What I didn’t prepare myself was for blind disapproval from close loved ones; family members who had told us to our faces that they understood or that they supported us but then discussed their concerns and disapproval to everyone else but us.

On a recent family trip across the country, our family stayed with a couple of friends in different states along our route. This work-cation allowed us to catch up with old friends, strengthen new relationships, and truly enjoy the beauty of places we’d never seen before. This trip–these families–reminded us of the good that is still out there for our kids and for those of us trying to negotiate this crazy parenting gig.

These friends–some my husband had never even met before this trip–loved our children so well. In a time where I was burying and hiding pain that shook me deeply from the judgement of people I loved, these friends opened their homes to us. They knew of our son’s special needs but they’d not met him so they didn’t know what to expect. Yet they included meals he liked when they cooked for us, their children laughed and ran and squealed, caught frogs and played hide and seek together. They didn’t see our boy as anything different from their own.

If you are parenting a child with invisible disabilities you know the paralyzing fear and condemnation that you can face with each and every decision you make for your child. School officials, family members, friends, and even spouses turn on each other and it can be very scary and incredibly isolating.

So when you face these hurts, breathe mama.

Learn to forgive them because their judgement is usually a mask for their own trauma or parental regret. It might even be that they honestly just don’t understand. And, even if they do, turn to friends who love your children well. Allow them to serve you through these painful times. It might feel foreign, but their love and acceptance of you and your child can be the healing that your heart is desperately searching for.

Keep fighting for your child. Continue to be their greatest supporter, encourager, and advocate. Be bold in getting their needs met. I know it can be incredibly difficult and sometimes feel completely impossible, but reach out to those friends who feel more like family. The ones who invest in you, who check up on you, and who love you and your child without condition. They are the family you choose to surround yourself with because they choose to love you without the side order of judgment.

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