I was once told by another blogger that because I write about more than just my special needs son(s) I could not be considered a special needs blogger. That while I may have been granted a window seat into that community I’d never be allowed off the bus.
At first, I was indignant. And then I was mad. And then I just became thoughtful.
For years I never gave much thought to the reflection staring back at me in my mirror. I’d fuss over my makeup, lament over one bad hair day after another and hope I didn’t grow any new pimples or chin whiskers from the last time I looked in the mirror.
I never paid any attention to me. I wasn’t paying attention to who I was becoming with the choices I made, I wasn’t seeing the identity I had molded for myself.
I was busy being the mother to my disabled son Shale. I was busy trying to parent Fric and Frac while attending to my disabled kid. I was busy juggling the needs of my disabled child with the needs of the rest of the family while trying to find a balance and not drop any balls.
Without really realizing it, I had immersed myself into the culture of special needs and when I wasn’t parenting my disabled child I was advocating for him.
I was (happily) consumed.
Then my special needs son died.
And took with him my entrance pass to the community I thrived on being a part of.
When he died so did my identity. I wasn’t just grieving the loss of my son, I was bereft with no clue who I was anymore.
It’s taken me over six years to find myself.
Luckily our youngest son found us and happily, we adopted him and all the tools and skills I had acquired and honed with Shale’s life I have applied to parenting my Foxy Knoxy.
Except this time, every time I look in the mirror I don’t just see fine lines, adult onset acne and the accumulation of more whiskers.
I see Tanis.
I see myself. And I’m careful to keep her close because I’m not ever willing to lose her again. This time, I’m not just a special needs parent. I’m not just a parent at all. Or a wife. I’m all of those things as well as being a writer, a gardener, a friend and so much more. I’m careful to stay balanced.
I can’t afford to lose myself again because I am intimately aware of how long it took me to rebuild my shattered identity.
My blog(s) are a reflection of this. Like in every other aspect of my life, I try to maintain a balance. I won’t limit myself to writing about one topic, although I admit, I am not perfect. I sometimes focus more on my chin whiskers and errant boob hairs than any other subject.
But writing about raising teenagers or living in a long distance marriage or surviving the loss of my child and everything that falls in between never ever erases the fact that I am the mother to a special needs child.
My foot is planted firmly in that beautiful community just as when I was consumed by it.
But life and then death taught me a valuable less. I can’t effectively advocate or parent any child of mine, special needs or not, if I’m only focused on the needs part and not the special.
So yes, I don’t just only write about my special needs child. Because life is bigger than his needs. He is more than the labels that define his abilities. And so am I. So is my family.
Sometimes writing about boob whiskers and delinquent teenagers is just the medicine I need to keep from slipping under the weight of disabilities and losing myself to a world that can be frightening and hard.
I no longer need to jump off the diving board of the special needs world. I’ve been treading water in this big old ocean for years now and I’m perfectly happy with the how the water feels.
So no. I’m not a special needs blogger despite parenting my children with disabilities. And I’m cool with that because for the first time in years when I look in the mirror I can see myself staring back.