This year, just for kicks, I’ve set myself the challenge of blogging about special needs parenting through the alphabet, one letter at a time.
It’s about what each letter represents to me but I’m sure everyone has a different set of words they’d use.
Try it and see.
Some letters are easy – clear as day and obvious, others less so and some, like A, have a whole list of words all competing for the title. That in itself is interesting to me, how we focus on the meaning and power of some words over others and how our choice of words sometimes leads to disagreement!
Although I had a long queue of words lining up for the role, Acceptance really stood out as the king A word in that list.
For years I had a great struggle with ‘Acceptance’ – I really saw it as a swear word.
For Acceptance I read quitting or giving up. In a kind of, “well I can’t do anything about this so I might as well live with it”.
That’s just not the attitude I was brought up to have.
I was raised on the mantra “If you are going to do something, do it properly or not at all”, and for some reason I never chose the not at all option.
An early military influence from the Air Cadets to the Territorial Army, then a stint in the Police, further installed the sense of ‘can do’ and ‘try harder’ attitude, where obstacles or problems were there to be solved, certainly not accepted.
I’m what personality profiling tests would call a ‘Fixer’ I see problems and have to fix them. This sometimes leads to upset when friends tell me their problems and instead of listening with sympathy, I’m hatching a plan of action for them. Not everyone wants to be ‘fixed’ however, some people I have discovered actually like living with their problems, they have accepted them.
Who am I to come along and tell them they’re wrong?
Then a couple of years ago I went on a group therapy course with other special needs parents. There were only a handful of us and we became and still are very close friends.
During one session we explored grief and traditionally the last phase or level in the grief model is Acceptance.
It’s the holy grail of recovery, the golden gates at the end of a painful long journey, the promise of relief from all that has happened before. Put it like that, I hate the word. To me it seemed so unobtainable and unrealistic to ever think that I’d be ok with my beautiful daughter having such limiting disabilities and frightening medical issues. How on earth would any loving parent ever be ok with that?
I really fought against it. I argued that the grief model is designed for loss where the person or thing has gone, it has a built in timeline. The further you get away from the time of loss, the more time heals. It just doesn’t work when the issue is still very present in everyday life. I was trying to ‘fix’ the grief model to fit my own expectations.
Then an odd thing happened, maybe from talking it all out or just from my mind getting tired of all the fixing.
I came to my own agreement with what acceptance means to me. I admit it does sound a bit whacky though!
It dawned on me that some days I feel better about it all than others, the situation isn’t different, but my attitude to it is. I started to think of Acceptance as a person, or being that is always in the room with me.
Sometimes I’m on talking terms with it or we are stood side by side dealing with a situation. It can actually help me feel stronger knowing I have this back up there. On other days I’ve completely fallen out with it, it sits in a corner sulking whilst I storm around shouting how life isn’t fair and railing against the system. This usually happens when my efforts to get equipment or therapy services for Lucy have drained me yet again. Or when a doctor has given us bad news in a letter which always seem to arrive on a Saturday morning.
Sometimes it happens when a rude stranger makes an unwelcome comment out of the blue. On those days I think even acceptance itself if it could speak would be on my side and agree with me, all this is not fair.
Finally, I found the answer whilst speaking to a dear friend who is a trained counselor and also a special needs mum.
She said “It’s OK to accept that you will never accept this”.
That sums it up perfectly, I accept I am who I am and my ups and downs are part of that.
I can’t fix this situation and I don’t have to fix myself to live with it.
I can finally now welcome acceptance into my life and be a bit kinder to myself and others.
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