Like most people, I grew up in a family where beauty and intelligence were important and therefore a constant topic of discussion. As it happens with families and in life in general, there exists a competition between us. Sometimes openly loud and aggressive, other times completely silent, we work to demonstrate that our children are more beautiful, more intelligent and better behaved than anyone else’s.
Because of this, it’s not hard to understand why parents of children with special needs feel the ground shaking under their feet when they receive confirmation of their child’s condition.
Supposedly, after living this on your own, as parents of someone with special needs or disability, we are supposed to become more empathetic and understanding, even less judgmental. In reality, it doesn’t always happen like that. We are still human beings like everyone else, and this is the evidence that disproves the theory that along with disability comes a certain holiness.
Parents of children with disabilities are parents like any other. We tend to be judgmental, to criticize others’ choices and as it happens with typical children, we tend to set absurd and meaningless standards for our children with special needs too. We replace the old ones for others more achievable because that’s what we humans do.
It all boils down to a basic conclusion. We depend on others and we let others influence our outlook and our choices, no matter how strong or independent we may think we are. We set goals to experience pride and to make our children feel proud of themselves. Still, there is a fine line that not only frustrates parents but may even worse, frustrate our own children. When, with the intention of achieving those prizes, we push them to reach an ideal forced upon them, instead of following the real ideal. Ultimately, the only ideal worth working towards is one to empower our children to become the best version of themselves. That’s it.
As parents, sometimes we need to stop to just look our kids in the eye. To watch them with no filter. To recognize them as individuals and just love them for who they are. Yes, we must work tirelessly for them to be the best, but not compared to anyone else. Instead, we should push them to be the best they can be as individuals and as unique human beings. We need to learn to give up on our desire to please others by remembering the most important thing: They are already perfect, they don’t need to be fixed, they just need to be themselves.
As the mother of two, my biggest source of pride is to have overcome my own insecurities through their love. I grew up feeling that, in order to be loved and accepted, I needed to fulfill someone else’s expectations, and it never worked out for me. Those stupid expectations played hard on me and have deprived me of many things, including food to stay fit, and individuality, to be considered “cool”.
With my children, the case is totally different. My daughter loves every part of herself. We spend hours talking about how beautiful, smart and incredible she is. My son is proud of everything he can do, and rarely gets frustrated over the things he’s not able yet to achieve. He’s proud of every small thing that has been always celebrated as if it were the biggest because to me, it really is.
So when I witness these silent battles of beauty and intelligence through social media, and everywhere else, I think of my children as winners. Long ago we gave up on senseless competitions and now, we are in combat for the greatest goal: Full inclusion based on individuality, not in standardized prejudice.