Have you heard the parable about the house built on rock verses the house built on sand? It is from Matthew and is super short and sweet. The gist of it is that if you don’t have a strong foundation, you will not weather the storm. I think a storm is a great metaphor for living this special needs life. The swells come and can cause some significant damage if we aren’t prepared.
I think one of the biggest shifts for me as the parent of a child with special needs was becoming aware of when I begin to wilt. It happens over time then one day I wake up and think “HOW DID I GET HERE?”
It is the slow crumble, the neglect of ourselves that leads to a house that has crashed to the ground. Because when your child isn’t well, isn’t sleeping, is self-harming, or when you have been denied AGAIN for resources you need, it is easy to neglect ourselves and be in the same state as the sandy house if we don’t have a good foundation.
The problem isn’t that we are weary, from time to time. The problem is that we don’t pay attention until it is too late and our foundations are weak and then we fall apart.
Of course we can and should spiritually prepare. However, I also believe there are very practical, things we can do to have a strong foundation as well.
1. You have to prioritize yourself. Oh my word! Did I really just write that out?! Yes. You did in fact read that right. YOU MUST PRIORITIZE YOURSELF. You are not a hero for putting everyone’s needs before your own. You, my friend, are human too. And if you are going to take extraordinary care of your child you must first take extraordinary care of yourself.
2. You need to attend to your own health. Both preventatively and when there are issues. Go for your check-up. Establish a relationship with a primary care doctor for you. Go to the dentist. I know, you don’t have time. No one does. But do it anyway. Appointments will get canceled because of your crazy life. RESCHEDULE THEM. I also am a big fan of working out and eating things other than the crust of my children’s sandwiches. But let’s not get crazy. If you are starting from scratch maybe just start with scheduling those appointments? We wouldn’t dream of neglecting our child’s health the way we often neglect our own.
3. Figure out what brings you to life again and do it. Do you love art? Do you like working out? Do you enjoy wandering the aisles of target alone with no agenda? What is it that recharges you? This is where the trendy topic of self-care comes in. But this isn’t about spending money on expensive luxury things. It is about finding out what recharges you and gives you life. Then make space to do that, regularly.
4. Get some help. Build your team. It truly takes a lot of people to help support one individual with special needs. And it is a constant game of finding people to help, that you also trust. Maybe grandparents, a spouse, helper or PCA. Maybe it is a friend or the para from school. You have to have a support team that will not only remind you that you are looking a bit wilted, but that will step in and help you prioritize yourself. No one will care for your child as well as you do. And that is Okay. Because you need a break sometimes, which is also valid and important.
So what is your foundation looking like? Did you weather the last storm with just a bit of hail damage? Or was it more significant? I would encourage you to look objectively at this and make a plan if you are looking a bit shaky.
Written by Laurisa Ballew