I learned a long time ago that love was going to look a little different in my family. I have a son who was pretty well behaved for everyone else but at home he would have huge meltdowns. I didn’t understand this for so long and it hurt. I thought that he didn’t love me or that somehow I was parenting wrong. It took a friend to point out that this was love. He felt comfortable and secure with me and could let out his emotions. With everyone else he had to hold it all in and it was exhausting.
When I changed my perception of his meltdowns, it helped me understand him. He was letting me know he trusted me and loved me by being able to have a meltdown with me. Now I didn’t throw a party when he had a meltdown, but I understood him better and felt better about our relationship.
Parenting a child with special needs can look much different than parenting typical children. I expected children to say thank you, I love you, and be grateful. I thought children would hug and kiss their parents, and love to snuggle and spend time with them. However, this isn’t always reality.
Children with autism may not say kind words or I love you’s because they don’t understand a parent’s need for those words. It can be taught, but it still may be difficult for that child to express. I had to change my ideas about expressing my love to him as well. For my son, playing a video game together is a good way to express love to him.
Hugs and kisses are difficult for a child with sensory issues. They may not like to be touched or their hugs may be too strong and tight. My daughter who is hypertonic has a hard time relaxing into a hug or snuggle and it can feel like hugging a tree. So sometimes a pat on the back, or a high five may replace a hug. But it is still an expression of love.
I thought love would mean that my children would help with chores. However, helping around the house can be hard for children with special needs. They may not like the noise of a vacuum. They may not be able to handle the soapy dish water on their hands. They may not be able to complete a task because of its complexity. So when asked to help, these children may run away or push back because these tasks are unusually hard for them. So I appreciate my daughter’s efforts to make her bed. The blanket is turned sideways and is wrinkled, but she tries. And that is the expression of love.
So love at our house means appreciating everyone’s effort for what they can give. Love means being patient during a meltdown or a difficult moment. Love is laughing at silly jokes. Love is spending time playing games, swimming together, or watching our favorite movie. Love can even be expressed in a meltdown. You just have to look a little harder to see it.