I am going to touch on something that many special needs parents are afraid to talk about, as there are many things they are afraid to be upfront about. However, this one is something that many of them fear expressing due to the fact that they are afraid that they will appear petty. And maybe what I am about to say sounds petty but it is very real and the feelings of parents of disabled children must never ever be invalidated.
The emotion that these parents often feel is envy and flat out jealousy. I would say jealousy is more like it. Envy alone is longing for something that someone else has that you don’t but you aren’t resentful. But with jealousy, you are as it is envy and resentment at the same time. It is hard not to feel envy resentment towards parents of only typical kids.
These parents of typical kids have no idea of the struggles that parents with special needs kids will ever face. These parents take for granted that their only typical kids will reach milestones as expected. They will experience their kids having friends, going on dates, graduating from high school, college, getting careers, possibly getting married, and having grandkids.
And even parents with special needs kids who have typical kids as well are just as envious even though they will get to experience these milestones with their typical kids. That is because they feel robbed of the family they had envisioned having. They are sad that they had envisioned being a family of 4 or 5 and cannot go on an enjoyable outing with the entire family because of their disabled kids. And they can only take advantage of outings with their typical kids when their disabled kids are in respite.
Meanwhile, they watch other typical families enjoy life with their typical kids and don’t have to worry about arranging for respite, or unpleasant outings due to meltdowns or embarrassing moments if they have to take their disabled kids along.
And I admit it is even to this day hard for me to see parents take pictures of their only typical kids and celebrate their milestones. Because even though I can experience that with my daughter, I cannot with my son. I will be grieving forever over the son I never had. If he was typical, I would not have had to send him away and we would have been a family of 4 living the life I had envisioned.
However, at the same time, I also know that no one has a perfect life. I also realize that the parents of only typical kids may be dealing with other crises that I know nothing about nor will I ever experience. I also realize that sometimes their typical kids end up dealing with many other problems unimaginable. I understand that.
I also understand that my issues with envy and jealousy are my problem. It is no one else’s issue. Itis mine. And I will have to work on it for life likely because it is a major struggle I have had throughout my life. Even before my son came into the picture, I was jealous of the popular girls. I was jealous of the skinny girls. I was jealous of the students that got straight As. But even for special needs parents who never used to struggle with jealousy, they do when it comes to watching families enjoy their time with typical kids while they are struggling with special needs kids.
So I will say this. Because I realize this is an issue I have, don’t let it stop you from celebrating your children’s successes. Go and celebrate it. As long as you are not rubbing it into my face at all, share your gifts. And I know that we all have gifts and challenges. Some may have more challenges than others, but everyone has the right to share their successes and gifts.
All I will ask is to not judge me for sharing my honesty, because I can tell you right now, I am not the only parent of a disabled child that feels pangs of jealousy. Most of them are afraid to admit it because of being judged which special needs parents are judged for other reasons as well. But I am being frank. Jealousy is a major issue when it comes to special needs parenting because we long for what you have.