Last week I took my kids to the dentist at the wrong time. I sent my son to school the week before without any lunch. He is not able to talk so could not tell anyone. I blame sleep deprivation personally.
I do my best. It is what we all do.
But still we never seem to feel we get it right all the time. That feeling is magnified when your children have extra support needs.
I remember eagerly buying push along toys, walkers and sit on cars for my toddlers, only to have them sit unused in a corner as my son was three before he walked, by which time they were all far too small for him. I tried to do the right thing, the ‘perfect’ thing, but for my children it was anything but perfect.
I sang nursery rhymes with my babies. I read to them, talked to them all the time and blew bubbles. Yet still my 8 year old to this day can’t say a word. I did all the right things but for him it just wasn’t to be.
I bought this wonderful potty for my kids. You know the ones that sing to them when they pee and even looks like a toilet. That was a total disaster!
I took my pre-schoolers to museums, cafes, soft plays, garden centres and farms. One of them screamed all the time and the other was terrified. What seemed the perfect thing to do was in fact anything but for my autistic children who struggled with sensory overload everywhere we went.
So I decided to stop being the perfect parent and instead become the perfect parent to THEM. That meant taking my son to see lifts. It meant taking them on train rides and joining in games of lining up toys. It meant accepting them for just who they are and allowing them to be autistic.
The best toys I ever bought them were second hand. I gave up full time work to care for them so I can attend all their meetings, keep up with all their teams of professionals and ensure they get the support they both need. It means I am there to keep the routine they need to feel secure and calm my son when he is in meltdown.
Being the perfect parent for them means sometimes making the same meal every night for a week just to see them eat. It means trailing shops to find the only juice my daughter will drink. It means cutting out labels in their clothes and ensuring the materials are soft and not too ‘busy’ so as not to upset them. It means reading the same bedtime story every night for two years in exactly the same way. It is answering the same question for the hundredth time and remaining patient.
Do I get annoyed at them? Of course I do. I am human. Do I annoy them? Absolutely! Do we love each other and hug often? Yes we do.
I am never going to be that parent who shows off a shelf full of trophies my child won at dancing or football. I am not going to be the parent who home makes Halloween costumes or bakes the most incredible birthday cakes. My kids have way too much screen time than is recommended and my son can’t even write his own name at 8 years old!
But I know what triggers a meltdown in my son and how to avoid it. I know what makes my daughters anxiety reach sky high and can work through this with her. I know the limitations of my sons eye sight and the fact he can not see pale colours. I know exactly what reading book my daughter has this week and what characters she is into just now. I know their routines for bedtime and school days and follow them like a robot so as not to upset them.
Those things don’t make me the perfect mum, but they do make me perfect for them.
I am blessed to have them. We are blessed to have each other. None of us are perfect but together we are the perfect team.