To what clubs do you belong? To what groups are you a member? These aloof questions often travel on an undercurrent of snobbery; the most elite tout their social connections and the memberships indicate little more than the fact you have filled out long applications, traced blood lines, and handed over some cash. That’s easy for me to say since I belong to none except our local country club and we inherited that membership though for $1,000 anyone can join and play tennis, eighteen holes of golf and swim in a not quite Olympic size pool. The real membership to which I belong is the club of which most avoid joining, many at high costs. The special needs club scares many away and yet, it is awesome.
I wouldn’t have wanted to be a member either, truthfully. I always watched families who had children with special needs and felt a bit of pity, mixed with a tinge of unconscious relief. It looked so hard from the outside and though I always made sure to talk and speak, but then just as quickly moved back into my own comfort zone of “normal.” Once it was my own turn to be a mother, I made sure to steer clear from prenatal testing; I just didn’t want to be in a position where I felt I had a choice as the idea of being tempted of an enviable option just felt wrong, at least to me. We avoided blood tests but had the big ultrasounds as they used to call them. At least that may show something we could feasibly “fix” and again, we traveled down the path of parenthood’s safety zone three times, until our fourth child, Amos.
His birth was our ticket to membership to the club that seemed one, in all honesty, I thought would be awful. I am allowed to say that now, even though it alludes to my own vanity, short sightedness, surface character traits, I share it to say I was where you are and I wish someone had told me that my inclinations were wrong and it was wonderful. It is terribly hard, but aren’t all good things difficult, at least the ones worth loving? It is wonderful and I have ceased to be amazed by the families that knowingly move into my hemisphere, going out of their way to adopt the children that are often discarded. I am humbled that they know the secret to which I was not privy to, choosing to take the oath of being being a special needs family, the membership spectacular. Perhaps my close mindedness had eliminated my heart from being nurtured that way or considering that appearances can be deceiving and that you really can’t judge a book by its’ cover.
Why did no one one tell me? Perhaps they were afraid or anxiously tentative, as I am now, that you may smile sublimely at the words but internally scoff and though you offer supportive phrases aloud or in neat script, internally you scream, “Thank God it’s not my family!”. I didn’t scream it but I allowed those thoughts to wash over my own ignorant mind and fostered a feeling of superiority in my then family of typical children. I wish I hadn’t done this and if someone had shared their story with me or if I had sought it out, I would know to be envious of those with the kids that have extra special needs, like my Amos. He is a treasure and a jewel and his life has brought more meaning to mine than all those years of thinking with relieved blinders. Yes, once you are here, you can never go back to the time of innocent bliss to the present time of meaning through struggle. I don’t want to go back.
Thank you for listening and reading. I hope you leave thinking more deeply than I did when I say where you are. I hope I have given you an advantage in understanding membership and what a club should offer if it has merit. I am thankful for my own golden ticket, two year old Amos, the spark that lit the fire of knowledge of a life worth living and more vibrant than I could have ever imagined. With him, we have been gifted a perspective so introspective, it is breathtakingly staggering and full of joy.