The other night, I ran to my bed and cried. I muffled my screams into my pillow. My chest heaved with each heavy breath as I let my pain out of me, and I cried so hard it hurt.
Fatherhood has taken a lot out of me lately, and it’s been overwhelming. More than anything, it’s been lonely.
I’m in the midst of parenting, and it’s confusing in a way that feels isolating because I’m not dealing with typical parenting struggles. I am dealing with a child that society considers too old to have breakdowns and who is struggling with developmental delays.
Sure, my husband is great and I have a few chosen friends and family who struggle, but if it’s true that “it takes a village to raise a child” then ours is seriously lacking.
I want a support system. I desperately need one, but most days I feel alone.
When you have a child with behavioral and developmental difficulties, the crowd thins. It’s horrible, because not only am I alone, but I see that my son is also suffering. They are suffering and need a lot of love, but many have no patience. Many turn their backs.
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All I want is for someone to listen and be compassionate, but compassion often goes out the window when they see my son have a fit. So all I have left is judgment, because their son would never have acted that way.
I long for someone who cares, but instead, I’m alone because it feels like there are limits to compassion, and they don’t extend to my children’s attacks and, apparently, my parenting.
So I struggle on what feels like an island of isolation.
And I sit with my son on the breakdown. And I seek help and add my name to the waiting lists. I work my patience and build my son in the midst of his pain. I try to research and learn about them. I try to explain to my friends and family that my son is struggling and needs patience and love, but too often my words seem to disappear into thin air. There will be no understanding or sympathy here. In their eyes, I simply have a “problem child” as a result of my bad upbringing. And even on my son’s best days, they can’t see them for who they really are because they only see the problems.
Slowly, it’s not just me who’s isolated, but my son is dismissed as a lost cause.
And I can’t help but fear that even in my son’s immense progress, he will forever live in the shadow of his past. Stuck . . . as if his struggle had cemented his future. Unable to be truly seen.
My heart aches for my son, so I cry alone in my bed, and when the tears run dry, I try to gather the strength to show a brave face, because I must protect my sweet son from the pain.
What I desperately want is someone to listen. Someone to take care of. Someone to extend compassion to my daughter and grace to me, but it seems hopeless.
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You have a support system when you fit the norm. When you are a parent in the same way as your family and friends or when your child behaves in a socially acceptable way but in the struggle, you are alone. You reach out to people expecting some support or a shoulder to cry on, but instead get hurtful advice or a raised eyebrow. Then you stop reaching because that only increases your pain. But deep down, you’ll never stop yearning for someone to just listen.
Because nobody wants to do life alone, especially in the fight.
You need someone to love you and your child through him—to walk beside you, offering encouragement and a shoulder to cry on when the day gets too heavy. You need someone to see the beauty in your child—tto see beyond all the great emotions and build on them. To cheer them up. Cheer for them when it looks like the world is against them and try to box them in.
And mothers like me need support more than ever because hope is born of love, and we desperately need both.