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Life can feel like a revolving door. People come in. People go out. Some never leave while others refuse to stay. It can be a bit overwhelming in every sense of the word. I’ve experienced it many times in my life.
When you have a special needs child, that door can speed up. Family, friends, and others trot in and out at an alarming rate. It’s hard to tie your anchor to one person because, as history shows, they’re just going to drift away eventually. We’re all just ships passing in the night. All aboard the ol’ S.S. Pessimistic.
When it comes to my son, I’m not a ship passing in the night. Lucas needs me and I’m going to be here for him. The same can be said for my daughter. My kids are the things that tether me to this world. They keep me going. They keep me working. They keep me alive. I owe them as much as they owe me.
They may be that for me, but they’re not that for everyone. My non-verbal son can be a lot for some people to handle or understand. Sometimes, while taking inventory of all the boats that have abandoned our port, I shake my head. He needs people and I do too. It feels wrong on so many levels to watch them walk away when you feel you’re most vulnerable. It hurts deeply, albeit a little differently for each person. After all, we often have stood by these people during their toughest times. It’s part of our nature and why we have the same devotion to our children. We’re here for the long haul, no matter how heavy it gets. It’s just who we are.
Some of these vanishing ghosts were those who, on paper, should be incredibly important to him. Family members who should cherish his existence are long gone or barely involved in his life. Aware of his struggles, they still choose to live a life without them. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins sail away. The sting that it leaves on an unattached person is difficult. The pain it causes the parent to a special needs child who could use all the support and love he can get can be massive.
Luckily, despite the divorce, Lucas has both me and my ex-wife in his life. However, for some people even that isn’t a guarantee. Deadbeat dads and missing moms have all made similar decisions to get going when the going got tough. For some parents, it’s unimaginable. For others, it’s unavoidable. There’s just something broken inside them. You can usually see it coming a mile away, but it’s no less devastating when it happens. I can’t even fathom the mentality behind it and won’t try. It’s sickening.
So after all that, there’s some good news for anyone looking into the eyes of their children and wondering, “What kind of person would leave a child like this behind?” The answer is the wrong kind of person; the kind of person who is gone is meant to be gone. They didn’t belong here, to begin with.
Think about it. I mean really think about it objectively. Don’t romanticize their place in your life. Remember who they were when they were here. How were they? Loving? Supportive? Caring? Probably not. If so, they never would have left to begin with.
Our circle might not be huge, but it’s tight and it’s right. No one in our life asks me about vaccinations or whether he was breastfed. No one blames me for my son’s challenges or expresses unhappiness over his stimming vocals. He’s not looked down upon or pushed aside. There were people like that, but those are the ones who no longer have a place at our table. I don’t miss them and I don’t value the place they would have in his life. In fact, I resent the time I spent appeasing them until they finally were wished into the cornfield.
I don’t beg people to stay who want to go and I don’t miss people who left that I didn’t enjoy having around. My child gained nothing from their presence and, as he’s gotten older, I am grateful to guide him on his journey without the added stress of their judgment, misunderstanding, or cruelty.
Sure, I can forget how they were when they were in our life. I can wax nostalgic for memories that my brain has sweetened over time. After all, life is usually easier with people around. We think of them as an escape from the worries we face. If only we had help. If only we had people. However, we forget that, especially when you have a special needs child, those people are usually the opposite of help. They can make you doubt your skills as a parent, your decisions, and even who your child is.
They made it all worse when they were here. Now they’re gone.
No. My child doesn’t just need people. He needs positive people. Losing the negative people in our life was addition by subtraction. Might they come back through that revolving door one day? Maybe. Anything can happen. We’ve had a few cameo appearances now and then. But if they come back, it won’t be because we need them. We have everything we need right here.
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