Parenting is a hard gig — special needs or otherwise.
I went into this gig with outlandish expectations. If you follow any social media platform, you probably see many articles on child rearing or pictures of how things “should be done.”
I’ve learned that a lot of that stuff is a bust. Here’s a list of parenting “essentials” that I believe you shouldn’t feel guilty about skipping as a parent.
1. Expensive monthly, then yearly, professional pics of your kiddo.
We’ve all seen them. Although gorgeous and so memorable, can you imagine the cabbage that costs? I learned I could drape a nice blanket over my couch and get amazing baby shots of my son. I learned how to use the timer on my camera to get some pretty good family pics too. I learned that as he got older, getting him to sit and pose would prove to be a nightmare similar to entering a battle. I learned I can take some pretty good pics of him and get them printed for a quarter the cost and without much of a fight.
2. The fancy holiday outfit.
Each year my Facebook news feed is filled with people’s kidlets in their fancy holiday attire. If money is tight, why would I want to spend 30 bucks on an outfit my kid only wears once? Add in autism and good luck finding fancy schmancy clothes your kid can tolerate. I’m lucky to keep him in more than underpants when we’re at home. Getting him into dress clothes, has happened one time in his life. They were hand-me-downs, and it was a tee with a sweater vest. It stayed on him no more than 20 minutes.
3. A nightly three-course meal
Can you hear me laughing to myself over the mere thought of this one? I was raised with one meal with three or more food groups, and you ate it or you went hungry. Then came my son, Liam. Even my parents will admit this is a joke in my house. I often make two or three meals, never with more than two food groups. If I get Liam to eat two food groups in one sitting, I feel like I won the lottery.
4. A sit down family meal at the dinner table
When you have a child who can’t tolerate various food smells, you quickly learn this is an unreal expectation. The alternative is vomit on your plate. Trust me, let them eat in a different room if that’s what they need to do. If we do sit down to eat together, it’s in the living room, at separate ends. But hey, we’re together. He’s happy, he’s eating, so it’s a win-win for me.
5. Eight to ten hours of sleep a night
OK, I may have peed a little laughing over this one. As a special needs mom, I learned I can function on little to no sleep. Thank God for coffee. My kid requires barely any sleep; therefore, I don’t get much either.
6. A “no co-sleeping” rule
Many people have varying opinions on this subject. Don’t listen to them. I was totally opposed to it from the beginning. And then I had a baby. A baby that was upevery hour, on the hour. Feed, change, repeat. I don’t think I slept more than 20 minutes at a time for the first year of his life. No joke. He didn’t sleep through the night until he was a year old, and even then it was spotty. Add in night terrors. Add in a child with separation anxiety. We started co-sleeping so we could get some sleep. My son’s now 8. He sleeps in his own bed, next to my bed. Yes, you read that right. We share a room. It works for us. Special needs parenting is hardcore.
I could probably think of a ton more, but my child is demanding my attention. I know… how dare he? Bottom line — never feel like you have to do certain things as a parent. Do what you feel is right for you and your child.