For parents of children with special needs, spending time other parents who are going through the same unique struggles can be really beneficial. In the April issue of Metro Parent, we looked the power of parent-to-parent time and how these retreats offer a way for parents of special needs kids to connect. Here, writer and mom Jennifer Lovy shares her story of how these sorts of retreats have helped her along the way.
Three years ago I participated in my first Shabbat at the Spa with no idea what to expect except for a one-hour massage and two nights away from my family. I came home with pains in my sides from laughing so hard, a rejuvenated spirit, and a deeper affinity for my children. I also returned with something I never expected to take home – meaningful connections with a number of moms I barely knew.
On Friday we were practically strangers. By Sunday we felt like long lost sisters simply because we understand the unique joys and challenges of raising children with special needs.
During a weekend of laughter, tears, discussions and soul searching, I learned so much from spending two days with a group of extraordinary moms who are parenting extraordinary kids. Although we are in a sisterhood we didn’t ask to join, being with women who understand makes the journey less lonely.
It was incredibly easy to bond with these other moms because regardless of our personalities, beliefs, ages of our children or the severity of their disabilities, we easily related to each other because of our unique parenting experiences.
The bond among us moms happens quickly and it runs deep. We grieve over much of the same things all moms do, but we also celebrate the things the rest of the parenting world would consider mundane – eye contact, learning to spit out toothpaste or even remembering to close the bathroom door.
We just “get it.” That’s a phrase that is thrown around a lot in the special needs parenting community because it’s the best way to describe a connection that can be hard to articulate. Being with other women who “get it” can fill your soul and rejuvenate you in ways you didn’t think were possible. Of course being at a spa without listening to fighting, crying or whining doesn’t hurt either.
The closest comparison I can think of is this: Every time I travel, I end up talking to the person wearing a Michigan State T-shirt or Detroit Tigers hat. We are strangers, away from home, connecting over a common bond. If it weren’t for the shirt or hat, we probably would not be interacting.
It’s the same with parenting special kids. It’s easy to find and connect with other autism moms. We can often spot each other a mile away. We’re the ones praising our children for things that seem unpraiseworthy to those who don’t know our kids. We’re also the ones trying to manage a very public meltdown.
These weekend give me something I didn’t know I needed – the chance to be with other women who “get it.” Which is why my first bit of advice to moms who are trying to wrap their brains around a new diagnosis is to find your sisterhood. It’s out there and it can be pretty easy to find. Trust me when I tell you that you need it. You just don’t know how badly you need it.