In the RDI Program, one of the first goals is to create space to be present with your child. It seems simple. Most parents of children with Special Needs are with their child a lot. But when you look at it more closely, most of that time is spent doing things for the child. Special Needs children require a lot of assistance. Things that are normally taken for granted may not be developing. The parents are in the position of doing it all. Therapies, diets, IEPs, research. The list is almost endless. The mythical “window of opportunity” lingers as a constant threat in the back of their minds. Not to mention the cost of what their child needs. Money, time, guilt, fear and exhaustion make it pretty hard to actually find time to just be with a child who has Special Needs. It is a recipe for stress. So my advice to create space is a tall order to fill. Sometimes slowing down feels simply impossible.
On the other hand, slowing down is absolutely what we all need to do. This world is so filled with possibility, so many options at our fingertips, that it feels like it all needs to be known and done. Slowing down to create space requires prioritization. It means that somethings will have to be eliminated. It means that others may need to be stopped temporarily. It requires that we compromise with doing it all, to doing what we choose well. It requires that the adults take some time for themselves. We all know that ignoring your own needs leads to inevitable burnout. And burned out parents are placing themselves, their marriages and their children at risk. Which is exactly the thing they are trying to avoid.
I’ve been working with a wonderful parent for many years now. And through the years, she has taught me so much. In observing her own growth and progress with her child, I believe the most important thing that she has done is finding herself in order to create space with her boy. She really has slowed things down, and cut unnecessary activities and people from their lives. I know for sure that the process was not easy, and in fact, there were times that were painful. However, she has done what she needed to do in order to have the time with her child. In doing that, she has been able to learn from her child. Her beautiful boy is detail oriented. He loves science and nature and indie music. Things that this mom can truly be present for. Things that they actually enjoy exploring together. Which has created the space and trust for this child to learn through his mother. He can safely engage with her and learn from her thinking. He has been given the gift of time. She has also found space for herself. This mother is artistic. She has a wonderful eye for beauty and she creates things to share with others. She uses her ability to re-charge herself. She uses her abilities to make others happy. She is a model for her son. Stay calm, find yourself, enjoy your talents, and make others happy.
I’ve decided to take my own advice and to follow her example. Even RDI Consultants get stressed out. I splurged on a new camera and I’ve decided to find something beautiful every day. My goal is to mindfully seek beauty. Which will require that I change my mindset for a little while every day. It will give me permission to take time for myself and explore something that I enjoy. I love being outdoors. I feel better when I let my feet touch grass, dirt or sand. I love to look around and find things that interest me outside. If you want to watch my progress, I’ll be posting my work on Instagram and my personal Facebook page.
My wish for anyone reading this is that you find your own space and joy. Keep your own identity. Be what you hope your child will be. A happy person.