I think that I now understand why parents of children who have special needs have a special bond with that child. At least I have come to understand my bond with Oscar.
When I say that I have a special bond with Oscar, I should say that I have a very special bond with both of my kids, but the bond is different. This is probably the same for any parent who has more than one child.
My bond with Olivia (my neuro-typical child) is special. She is my little baking buddy and my crafty companion. I am protective of her, particularly of her feelings. There have been many occasions when I have left her with family or friends so that I could take care of something with Oscar. There have been MANY appointments where I have watched her sit patiently on the sidelines. And there have been several times where she has woken up in the morning to find me not there. I never want her to feel abandoned or excluded but despite my best efforts, I worry that she has.
She says “wait for me” a lot. I am not sure if she is saying this line just because… or if she is saying it because somewhere in her little 5 year old subconscious she feels like she has been left behind? Either way, I will always wait for her and I do verbally remind her of that.
We ask a lot of her, now that she is 5 years old (almost 6). She will clear her plate from the table, she will clean up her toys (when asked), she will start pouring water into the bathtub, and she feeds Suma (our dog). These are just some of her little “jobs” that she helps us with. Sometimes she does ask for help. I always tell her that I am always here to help her whenever she needs it. I think it is important for her to hear that.
And then we have Oscar, my special little boy. Recently, I have been thinking a lot about my need to “let go”. Oscar was scheduled to start daycare in March of 2020, but because of COVID the daycare is currently unable to take any new children. Part of me is relieved that he isn’t in daycare; one reason being COVID, the other being that I don’t have to let go just yet.
The rational side of my brain knows that daycare would be good for him. It would expose him to other children, a new environment and new experiences. (Especially now that he has learned the idea of mimicry). The emotional side of my brain doesn’t want to let go.
Oscar and I have been through a lot together, even though he was just a baby when most of the scary stuff happened. I imagine it similar to how people feel bonded after surviving a natural disaster together or any other traumatic event. You remember the trauma of the event and you remember who experienced it with you. In my case the “who” is my child.
I also have a very clear memory of all of the help and support we received during those times. Obviously my husband was present for a lot of it and was a HUGE support. My parents left a vacation early to be with us, my sister took my daughter for a few days, my aunt was my on-call medical professional, my cousin who sat in the hospital room with me until my husband arrived, my friend who spent the night on our couch so that my husband could come to the ER with us. Other friends near and far who checked in, dropped of meals or flowers were all such HUGE supports. I will truly never forget it.
I don’t want to seem as though I am minimizing the involvement of our huge support system because we are so incredibly lucky to have them. But many emergency room visits I did alone, and the ambulance rides I took alone with my son. It was just him and I who shared those experiences. And that is why we have a different kind of bond.
So when people (coming from a good place of course) encourage me to “let go” I think they understand that it may be more difficult with Oscar. It is different to “let go” of a child who has had medical complexities vs a child who hasn’t. I know that they are coming from a good place. I know that they are saying it because they can see that Oscar is ready for the next challenge. I know that Oscar is ready too, I am just not sure that I am.