February 25, 2024 | Rome, Italy

The special one

By |2018-03-21T19:04:35+01:00February 21st, 2015|Lifestyle Archive|
Special needs can be mortifying and saddening.

have a son with special needs. Which is a ridiculous term conjured up by a contemporary population determined to be PC — and I’m not talking about computers.

For me, using “special needs” in a conversation is sort of like neighbors whispering that someone has cancer. You can mumble as much as you want but the malignancy still shows up on the MRI. Sugar coating a child’s challenges doesn’t change the reality. And, quite honestly, don’t we all have special needs?

I know I do.

So does my five-year-old.

But my seven-year-old has an actual cerebral problem. His cognition is high, so his intelligence is unaffected. But his vision, speech, attention and motor skills all work in ways that makes his daily functioning very difficult. It also makes the daily functioning of our family more challenging.

Maybe I dislike the term “special needs” because I never wanted a special needs child. That’s not to say that I don’t want my child. I want him and love him ferociously.

It is to say no mother dreams of her child being anything less than perfectly whole and healthy. No father hopes his son becomes bipolar or starts popping prescription painkillers. No parent dreams of their child dropping out of school or beating their spouse.

I am no different.

To the untrained eye, my seven-year-old seems like every other boy on the block, which is great. His disabilities are that minor. But that can work against him when his brain gets overloaded and he starts to (cue the music)… aaahh Freak out (“Le freak, c’est Chic…”)! When that happens, most civilians have no idea what to make of him.

Suddenly, I look different — like a “bad” mother. Should I care what other people think of me? Hell no. But do I? Y.E.S.

My son’s “freak outs” have come fast and furious since the start of 2015. The impetus is usually a lost soccer game. The fits regularly include pushing, kicking and sometimes biting. It’s both mortifying and saddening.

When he’s been aggressive I’ve gone straight to the parents of other kids to apologize. Most have been quite understanding — but not all. And those few have made me want to crawl into a hole (see mortifying) and sob (see saddening).

I desperately want my child to be “normal,” and when he’s not I want to take to a mountaintop and shout, “He isn’t an asshole! He has real problems! Problems that we are (and have been) working on!”

I want to tell people he’s funny and sweet and implore them to exercise compassion.

My mother says I don’t owe anyone an explanation. But in world where a child’s behavior reflects directly on parenting and in which mothers are judged daily by their child’s performance, my ego wants to clear things up for everyone. I want those we come in contact with to understand that I know what my son is up against and I’m on it. I want to point out that everyday I battle for him and with him. And that everyday, no matter how much I love him and how much I do for him, I’m often left with the sinking feeling that it’s still not enough.

I want the world to know that I take my job very seriously. I want them to understand that though I’ve failed at many things in my life, I cannot fail at this. I cannot fail at mothering. It’s my purpose on the planet to ensure two decent, funny and loving people walk its surface.

It’s a massive task. So, I will continue to meet the special but normal needs of my five-year-old. And I will continue meeting the super-special needs of my feisty seven-year-old, a boy whose brain sometimes does back-flips, and I have to play safety net.

About the Author:

Kissy Dugan's "Parenthood" column ran from 2007 through 2016.