If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words, "Oh, I could never do what you do" or the incredulous, "How do you do it?" my husband and I could go on a sweet vacation. (Oh wait no, we couldn’t because getting a babysitter for our kids is next to impossible... mainly because of that one.) And then there are the opposing comments from within the disability community, "all parenting is hard" and "there are no guarantees when it comes to baby-making."
Both of those messages are simplistic and dismissive toward the plight of a parent of a difficult child.
Let me make it clear that Kimani is not hard to raise because she has Down syndrome, she is hard because she is hard. My other two girls with Down syndrome are not hard to raise. Yes, people with disabilities might bring with them some complications that make your life less simple, less easy but in most cases the disability itself is not the ticket into the "hard to raise" club. And many, many children without an identified diagnosis or any label make it into the club by the time they are teenagers.
To you who
To those who say that all parenting is hard. Yeah, it is. I have five other kids ranging from age 20 to age 3, and I know that there is work, heartache, and stress involved in raising children. But you need to understand, there is hard work and then there is HARD. So please stop silencing those who have situations you thankfully cannot even dream of. I know I am not supposed to spoil the narrative or god-forbid reinforce incorrect and outdated stereotypes and hopefully this post is not. (You read the part about this not being an issue limited to a specific disability or even disabilities in general, right?)
What makes a child hard to raise? I suppose each case is unique and complicated. It is like the perfect storm. And in that way, it is true that you never can be sure if your reproductive efforts will take you there.
(Hey snarkers, did TUC really let her kid pull her other kid’s hair while she took pictures? For the record Kimani was being verbally directed to cease and desist by her father who was 2 seconds away from rescuing Autumn.)
What are the characteristics of a hard to raise child? Well, now I only have mine to go by but I would say that if your child:
-- is not responsive to the usual (ok and even unusual) behavior reinforcers;
-- has no empathy toward others;
-- shows little or no affection;
-- is aggressive or violent toward themselves and/or others;
he or she is probably hard to raise.
I’m not just whining "Oh woe is me" or venting. I am telling you this for a reason. It is important that we allow parents of difficult to raise children to talk about it. We can’t keep telling them to STFU because they are somehow hurting the message. That message is still valid. This is not about Kimani. Kimani is fine. She is happy and she has all her needs met, and from her perspective life is as good as it gets. She deserves that. It is not her fault that she is hard to raise and she is in no way punished for it.
We the parents are the ones who are punished for it. If we are honest, and step off of the pedestal, we are judged as bad parents. If we keep up the facade that our child is mostly like your child, and that we have it all under control, we suffer from an indescribable loneliness and constant guilt.
But I am done with all of that crap because I am an awesome mother to a child who is really hard to raise.