Dear Mom I Recently Met,
So, there was something I didn't bring up when we were chatting the other day. Because I was honestly stumped. Our conversation was going great until you mentioned your child had some issues. "It's mostly sensory stuff," you noted. "But compared to your son, he's normal!"
Ooomph. My heart lurched, my mouth kept talking. "It's all relative!" I responded. And I went right on conversing with you, even as my head processed and reprocessed what you'd said.
I am not a shy person. I hesitated to tell you how unnerving your words were because I didn't know what to say, and I also didn't want to sound defensive. I sometimes get a little paranoid that moms of so-called typical kids think they have to treat me differently because I have a kid with special needs.
Now that I've thought it over, though, I don't think I was being overly sensitive. That was a pretty shocking thing to hear.
Listen, I know you didn't mean it in a hurtful way. In your mind, I'm guessing, you didn't want to come off as if you were making light of Max's challenges. Sensory issues vs. cerebral palsy may very well seem like a cold vs. cancer to you.
But in my mind, your words made it seem as if Max were the farthest thing from normal. And that was painful to hear.
What's often hard for parents to understand is that Max isn't totally different from other kids. He may not speak like many kids do and his hands may not work as theirs do but if you can look past his disabilities, you'd find a kid like many others—a kid with a great sense of humor, a love for cars, trains and all things that go fast, a whole lot charm and all sorts of other awesome.
Perhaps, too, there was some denial going on here—as if you wanted to connect about your son's issues yet at the same time confirm that, unlike me and my child, the two you do not inhabit Planet Special Needs. I understand. I know denial well. Sometimes, it comes in handy.
Still, there's no point in speaking those words.
Next time we meet up, I'd love to talk like any moms do. No comparing our kids' issues, no thinking about them as "normal" or not. Let's just connect as two moms, doing the best we can.