How Special Needs Parenting Encouraged Me to do what was Right Instead of Meeting Society’s Expectations
As soon as I had hit puberty, my weight started piling on and I also had an unfortunate case of severe acne. However, my life at elementary school was fine until my family had moved to another area, and I had to start at a new school. That was also more of a difficult transition because at that time is when I was ready to start middle school.
My years at middle school and in early high school were horrible because I was bullied a lot. I was overweight and had a severe case of acne on my face. However, other newcomers were slim and had clear faces. They were automatically accepted. Why were they accepted? Because society glorifies slim and clean.
Because my appearance did not meet society’s expectations, I was ridiculed and left out. My self-esteem was always low, and it became even lower until I had lost some weight when I was in grade 10 and found a medication that helped clear up my face. I actually found that other kids became nicer to me and I was no longer bullied, for the most part anyway. Why? Because I was starting to meet society’s expectations.
My college years were a lot better and I got married in my mid-twenties and had my daughter about 2 years later after struggling with mild infertility. As it turned out I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which explains why my weight ballooned and why I had developed severe acne during puberty. However, after several attempts with Clomid and IUI, I successfully became pregnant with my daughter and had a decent pregnancy.
When my daughter was 18 months, my menstrual cycle seemed to have been messed up for whatever reason. Having late cycles was not a new thing to me considering I have PCOS, however after being 3 months late made me examine the cause. I was indeed pregnant. This was a shock because the odds were against my husband and I that we could conceive naturally.
The pregnancy itself was fine, however, my son’s birth was not as he inhaled meconium and lost oxygen. After being in the NICU for 10 days he was well enough to finally come home. However, he was not developing at the same pace as my daughter did when she was an infant.
As time when on, it was clear that he needed to be assessed. He lacked speech, interest in human interaction, and became lost while staring at lights and spinning tops. He was diagnosed with autism at 3 and my world once again came crashing down.
However, since I had this new issue on my plate, I had to work with it and do the best I could for my son. He received early intervention with various therapies that cost and arm and a leg. In some areas he progressed, and in other areas he didn’t.
As time went on, he was not doing well, and after trying out 4 different schools close to 10 years later, I was out of ideas. I was also at my wit’s end. I fell into a serious depression years prior to that and was even diagnosed with a Major Depressive Disorder.
I knew that it got to a point that in order for my 13-year-old son to live up to his potential, and for me to deal with the demons from my past and focus on my mental health, be a better wife to my husband, and better mother to my daughter, something drastic needed to change.
My son could no longer live at home because I not only feared I could snap, but he was regressing at home and I could not give him what he needed. Then there was that part of me that worried about what other people would think of me if I were to send my son away. The same way I worried about fitting in and being part of the in-crowd.
Before I knew it, I had my ah-ha moment. I knew it was time to stop worrying about meeting society’s expectations and to do the one thing that was best for my situation. That was sending my autistic son to live away from home since him living at home was worsening the situation. I got the ball rolling to make that bold move become a reality.
After several months of my son going through more assessments, and after I went through other ordeals, my son left home in September of 2017 to a much better place. A place and school where he would get everything he needed 24/7 so he could live up to being his best, whatever that may be. I see him every Sunday and I can say with confidence that I am already seeing subtle positive changes in him and in myself. I did the best thing for my family.
However, why have I found myself defending my decision? Do you know how many parents who were in my position that sacrificed their sanity because they thought that sending their disabled children away (to somewhere better yet) was wrong? That is because society has taught us that doing something like that is wrong and it makes you selfish. That is right. Society glorifies martyrdom! The same way society glorifies anyone who isn’t overweight and an acne-free face.
If society was more accepting of different appearances other than the types that are not considered “beautiful”, there would be less bullying and more confident men and women around.
My message to anyone is if you are in a difficult situation whatever that may be, and doing the best and right thing goes against what society expects of you, then take the risk at being hated and mocked, and do the right thing. Your sanity, wellbeing and the health of anyone involved will be better off in the long run.
About the Author
Miriam Slozberg is a Canadian mom of two teens, author, blogger, freelance writer, social media manager and astrologer. One of her teens has Autism and she has written several pieces on a variety of platforms about her experiences with raising a child with special needs. Miriam is an advocate of mental health and depression. You can visit Miriam’s sites at www.expressivemom.com and www.miriamslozberg.com for more information.