When you have a child with special needs, you sit in many waiting rooms. Usually the visit is every week, sometimes all year long. While your child gets the amazing therapies he or she needs to succeed in daily life, you wait.
If you are like me, you could try to run one errand, attempt to read a book or clean out your purse in each 50-minute slot. However, you simply cannot repeat those actions every week. Some weeks you are so tired, you easily could fall asleep on the hard plastic chair in the waiting room. Some weeks you're so hyperactive, you could just as easily lead a marching band through the room. Other weeks, the weather is so awful, you are just happy to have arrived safely. Therefore, you are content simply to sit, thankfully and quietly.
For the siblings of the child in therapy, you prepare. You pack snacks, books and games. You play and cajole. They usually meet other waiting sibs and, depending on those children's social skills, you either watch anxiously, ready to intervene, or you catch up on the semi-latest celebrity gossip looking at months-old magazines.
Sometimes you meet another mom or dad with the same time appointment or waiting for the same group your child is attending. If it is the latter, you have a great deal to talk about and share. It is a "free" therapy session for the parents of these unique kids.
Sometimes you find a mom who is meeting the daily challenges of her child with grace and magnificence. She is still smiling, chatting and making jokes. She is kind and friendly to your other children. She is interested in you, your life and your child. She is one mom who you know immediately understands your life.
She can nod in agreement with how you handled a potentially explosive moment and share back a tip on how she handled a similar scene with her son. You will nod in agreement, at how sometimes your spouse isn't exactly on board with the latest parenting method or class you are both now advocating.
You are amazed how even your non-child experiences are the same. You have both been let go of jobs because of ill-tempered supervisors; you are the same age; she wants to become a teacher and you were a teacher in your prior life.
She is the friend you will have over for coffee some morning. You haven't yet asked her because every week you know how busy her schedule is and, truthfully, so is yours. She is like you, tireless and committed to her son.
When you meet a parent like that, your worries, workload and world are lightened. You gain back some energy. You feel positive about the time and money your family is pouring into these therapies. You feel hope. On an often-lonely road as the parent of a special needs child, it is comforting to find a special parent.
Kim Stricker is a Northfield mom raising two sons, one diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD.