Attention to detail.
It’s one of the skills you highlight in a job interview. It is critical in parenting as well.
Do you notice how the demands of caring for a child with a disability have changed the details that you pay attention to?
Confession: a friend pointed out that our bond was sealed a year ago when our daughters locked hands at a fall festival. I nodded and agreed, but for the life of me, I can’t recall that moment. I adore this friend. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I vaguely remember seeing her and her children there. That memory didn’t stick. I feel terrible.
It happens often though. People remember me and say hello. They look familiar but I’m not sure why. They are lovely people. I’d like to be friends with them. But when I can’t remember their names or why I know them after we’ve met 15 times, I’ve sort of burnt that bridge.
I know I’m not alone. We are in the trenches. At home I’m juggling subcutaneous medical treatments, doctors appointments, calls to specialists to manage medication dosages, meetings with my son’s school team, emails to the various people handling his Medicaid care plan, food aversions, behavior issues, incontinence, sleep disturbances, and then all regular parenting stuff on top of that.
When I’m out with my children, I’m on high alert to make sure my oldest doesn’t dash away or throw his hearing aids in a toilet. As I track him, my youngest often trots off, greeting every stranger in sight. My middle child wants to cling to me. If I have a conversation, I’m only partially in it. I cannot maintain eye contact with another adult because I have to be monitoring my wanderers. Literally sprinting away mid-sentence to avert a crisis.
At school events, I might greet a few fellow parents here or there, but I’m usually talking to one of my son’s 11 teachers or therapists. My gorgeous child with Down syndrome, glasses, hearing aids and a billion dollar smile is so memorable that seemingly everyone knows him, and by default they know “Arlo’s mom.” But I can only recall a handful of his friends. When your child is borderline nonverbal, they don’t come home talking about what their classmates did. You’re super connected to the school, but not in the same way as the other parents. Playdates are rare. Connections for him take work and a great amount of attention on my part to cultivate.
Attention to detail. I still do a stellar job. I just have to prioritize, so the details I pay attention to are vastly different than my peers.
So if you see a parent like me, please be forgiving. We want to remember you. We want to know your child’s name too. We’re just pulled in a few too many directions to keep track of those special moments. We appreciate your friendly face, we just need some extra time … OK, an obscene amount of time … to put a name to it.
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