Many of us have heard the phrase “”Fake it till you Make it.” This type of mentality can apply to so many areas of our lives and I have personally experienced the benefits of “acting as if” in order to reach the next level of whatever it is I may be pursuing. There are, however, areas of our lives in which “faking it” can leave us feeling isolated, alone, unheard and misunderstood. Parenting and all that it entails is a great example of one area where so many people pretend that things are perfect, act as if they enjoy every single second, feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit just how difficult some days can be, how much they don’t know, and all the ways in which they believe they have failed. It is refreshing to see so many articles and blogs in recent years that tell parents (and moms in particular) that we are all in this together, that it is okay to have a bad day, that we are doing our very best and that we are not alone in this journey of parenthood. We are now being encouraged to share the truth about how tired we are, how difficult it is to be a parent, the specific challenges both moms and dads face today and there is definitely a movement towards honesty and openness when it comes to sharing with other parents. No more “faking it” or trying to look like we have this all under control – instead let us all unite over our shared experience. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But here is the thing, when it comes to special needs parents, as much as we would love to put it all out there with brutal honesty, most of us continue to “fake it” and here are the reasons why.
- Special needs parents know that while you may try to understand our situation it is not something that resonates with parents who do not face those same struggles. We can talk and talk and try to explain it all but the realization that we may not be understood hurts so we keep things to ourselves sometimes and “fake it.”
- We don’t always want to be the whiner or complainer about how hard some things are so we would rather just tell you about the successes and wins. No one wants to hear negative comments all day so we pretend or don’t mention the bad stuff because if we only did that we fear no one may ever pick up the phone again when we call.
- We fake it every time we nod our head in understanding about the world of youth sports, drama of your kid getting on the right team, overbearing parents and coaches, etc. We have absolutely no idea what this world looks like but pretend like we have a clue.
- All of those holiday traditions like train rides with Santa, Easter egg hunts, 4th of July fireworks, yeah we pretty much fake those too. Sometimes we go, sometimes we don’t, most of the time we are pretending like we are not filled with anxiety about what may happen if we do try to be part of these events and then we really have to fake our love of all the Facebook pictures showing your kids having a blast doing them.
- It’s easier to pretend like our lives our similar to everyone else’s. There is nothing like the silence that enters a conversation with a group of friends when you casually mention that your child isn’t potty trained, that the hole in your bedroom wall was the result of a meltdown one day, that we let our kid eat dinner in his playroom to remind us that our reality is different. We may “fake it” to avoid judgement about our parenting or simply because we don’t want to bring up how different our day to day life may be.
- We don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable. We fake it by not mentioning the 5 meetings this week alone with the therapists, advocate or child study team. We fake it by not mentioning the seminar on feeding issues or the hours spent on the phone trying to schedule various doctors appointments. Not only do we fear this is a totally boring topic for you but we also don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable by what our world sometimes entails.
- We don’t want you to stop complimenting our child or how far they have come. When you tell us our kid seem like other kids, are doing great and you would never know he has autism, we feel proud and agree. But we also want to tell you that the reasons for this are due to 25+ hours a week of therapy, or the intense meltdown that occurred earlier today or a myriad of other things. Saying these things would be rude, unappreciative and make us seem like we cannot see the good in our child, so we smile, say thank you and go on our way.
- We feel like crappy parents for dreading holiday school breaks, summer breaks, etc. While most people are planning vacations or are excited about all that family time, we are trying to figure out what we are going to do with our child for an entire week of no schedules, no therapy sessions, no structure and the ensuing meltdowns that go along with these things. But, we fake it anyways….because saying it out loud sounds terrible.
- Sometimes we “fake it” just to avoid our reality. Smiling and pretending like things are totally normal, like everyone else has to see 4 different doctors a month, like attending IEP meetings and fighting for services every step of the way are just part of every parents daily life is our way of feeling like we are part of the regular world. We fully realize this is not the case but sometimes it is easier for us to not focus on the differences and just pretend like our world is the same as yours.
- Because if we don’t “fake it” we may come undone. It’s not that special needs parents ignore or deny the facts but we choose to do so in private or with our children’s therapists or in support groups or with friends who we have developed solely based on the fact that they are on the same journey. Sometimes faking it with the rest of the world allows us to get through the day and the thought of sharing all of the details of our situation is simply too emotionally draining – so we “fake it” to help us keep it together (otherwise we could be bursting into tears at any given moment with the check out person at Target).
If you have ever wondered about that special needs parent you know and love and felt like they were “faking it” with you please know that we don’t do this because we don’t trust you. In a way, it is our armor, our protection against the possibility of feeling even more alone or isolated and in many cases it is the only way we know to survive. “Faking it” is tiring and exhausting and most special needs parents would love nothing more than to be able to just put it all out there for the world to see without fear of judgement. It would be great for everyone if we could stop feeling as we need to pretend or “fake it” in order to to allow ourselves and those who love us to be part of what is a challenging but unbelievably fulfilling journey because the problem with always “faking it” as a special needs parents is that we miss out on the opportunity to share all of the amazing, humbling, exciting things that happen in our lives because of our children (and these happen every day too). I hope we can work together to make this a reality some day soon.