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Mum and Dad

The backhanded compliment every special needs parent hates

The backhanded compliment every special needs parent hates


Whitney Barthel

posted in Parenting

I know you probably mean that I am an awesome mom with crazy beyond human superpowers, but when you say that could never do what I do when caring for my special needs child, it feels like what you are saying is I could never love a child like yours.

It hurts. It hurts even though I know you do indeed love my special boy.

special needs Whitney Barthel

The other day I was having a discussion on adoption with a person who I am close with. We were talking about the outlandish expenses involved in adopting. I simply mentioned that there are a lot of grants for adopting children with special needs. Then, bam. “I could never do it. I could never do what you do.”

I applaud this honesty. I really, really do. But I think this person is wrong. I think that, given the opportunity, 99 percent of individuals lucky enough to become a special needs parent would do swimmingly.

Even if they didn’t…even if this thought is accurate and a parent does ends up being less than mediocre, surely having a less than stellar parent is better than the alternative — sitting in an orphanage, or worse.

I push the thought away that what might have been meant was I would never do what you do.

Because who wouldn’t want this?

Whitney Barthel special needs

Whitney Barthel

special needs mom Down syndrome

Is the work that goes into parenting a special child more intense than parenting a non-chromosomally-enhanced child? Probably. Is it more rewarding than parenting a typical child? Definitely.

Okay, bottom line: Next time you want to compliment me on my parenting, please, please make sure you are not doing so by saying you never could/would love a child like mine.

What is the worst “compliment” you have ever gotten as a special needs parent?

Images by Whitney Barthel

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