Something I’ve heard a lot about from parents lately is guilt. Heck, I’ve heard it at least as much in my own brain as from the parents I talk to.
We always feel like we could do more. We always feel like surely we’ve missed something essential to our child’s future. We feel like, because we missed it, we’ve failed them.
We could have seen the signs at an earlier age. We could have gotten them therapy sooner. We could have gotten them more services. We could have gotten them a better school placement with more therapy and resources. We could have gotten more help from the county or state. We could have gotten them on those wait lists sooner.
We could have contacted our local school boards and commissioners to get better laws in our communities and more rights for our kids. We could have contacted our state representatives and senators and fought for greater services, better budgets, and expanded protections for our kids.
I haven’t even scratched the surface. There’s so much we think we could have done – should have done – but we didn’t.
To that, all I can say is… Stop.
Yes, there are lots of things we didn’t do. There’s a lot we didn’t get done. But here’s an obvious fact that hardly any of us accept.
You are human.
Just because our children have special needs doesn’t mean we magically get 48-hour days or triple the endurance and energy of other mortals. We are human beings tackling enormous challenges in order to help our children. We would face down anything for them.
But we are still human.
You and I are finite people with finite strength, finite energy, and finite skill. We can, and often do, pour all that out on behalf of our children. We want the best possible future for them, and we will do everything we can to that end.
But we are still human.
We are humans who love imperfectly. We are humans who try and fail. We are humans who sometimes just can’t take it anymore and need a break. We are humans who need sleep. We are humans who need support, friendship, and family. We are humans who love our children with every ounce of our being. We are humans who can do everything we can but still believe it is not enough.
We will never quite believe we are enough. We will never truly believe we are doing enough. We will never believe we have enough. We will beat ourselves up over this countless times a day.
It’s a contest we can never win. So just… Stop.
The only way out is to decide that we are enough, that we are human and giving it everything we have. Today you did the best you could. Learn from today, go to bed, and try again tomorrow.
I know this is so incredibly difficult to do. Believe me, this is something I struggle with every day, too. But at least we can start by acknowledging our guilt and our finite humanity. We can start by saying, “I’m doing the best I can. I am giving it everything I have. It’s somehow going to be enough,” even if we don’t yet believe it.
We can ask, What if it were OK that I didn’t do that perfectly, or if I didn’t get this done today? What if it were OK to stop beating myself up over the past and to stop stressing so much about what hasn’t even happened yet? What if it were OK that I just did the best I could today?
What if it were OK if I accepted that I’m human and I could just stop feeling this heavy, painful guilt all the time?
Would you be OK with that?
I know this is hard. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll do as a parent. But you wouldn’t treat other parents as harshly as you treat yourself when things get this hard. You would treat them with empathy and kindness.
Talk to yourself in the mirror. Give yourself encouragement. Say you are going to lay down this burden of guilt. Close your eyes and imagine talking to yourself face-to-face. Reflect lovingkindness and compassion to the soul who is before you. Lay down your burden. Give it up to whomever or whatever you believe in. Repeat.
You are enough. Promise.