Most weekends I take my 4-year-old to the library for a program called Sensory Sunday. For a kid on the Autism spectrum it's a chance to engage in sensory play and build social connections. But this Sunday we obviously stayed home.
"Is the library closed because people are sick?" kiddo asked me. I told them yes—and we spent our day watching Paw Patrol, eating pickles and folding laundry. It's hardly stimulating, but I refuse to mom-shame myself over this.
For the next several weeks I am embracing imperfect parenting, loosening up about screen time and giving myself a high-five for every day we get simply get through. Our school is closed. Our support system is gone. And I'm not going to hold myself to an unrealistic parenting standard during this pandemic. My daily schedule is not going to be worthy of Pinterest.
I'm going to be very honest with you: It's gonna be frozen pizzas and PJ Masks marathons up in here until things get back to normal (or at least until I find my feet in this new normal).
Our "old normal" involved playdates, playgrounds, parenting coaches, respite workers, therapists and support from our community. My preschooler goes to a special needs Pre-K program. It is amazing. The kids get multiple therapies and tailored early learning lessons to enhance their language and social skills. There are multiple professional educators in the classroom at all times. I don't even know how many years of post-secondary training in education they have between them, but I know how much I have: zero.
I don't have any degree in education. I'm not trained in supporting kids with special needs. I just love one and I'm doing my best as an amateur mom. We're going to read. We're going to go for walks. We're going to practice the skills we've been learning in Pre-K. But I'm not going to pretend that I have the capacity or training to do what my child's teachers and therapists do every day (especially as I am also working from home).
We just learned my child's school will be closed indefinitely. This comes one week after my child missed a week of Pre-K due to a fever (we didn't want to risk getting classmates sick). So kiddo stayed home with me for four days while I worked. They watched me type on my laptop, watched a ton of TV and ate the McDonald's breakfast burritos I asked Uber Eats to leave on our front porch when I realized I had no food (as school provides hot meals).
It was not a super awesome week. My spouse worked outside the home 12 hours a day. My child interrupted my video meetings and my productivity. I spent my evenings catching up on work after they were asleep. And I did not have the time or the energy to do in-home speech, occupational or behavioral therapy sessions. I was exhausted.
I want my child to thrive, but without my village all I can do is survive.
All I can do right now is pizza and Paw Patrol and that's okay.
I worry that without proper teachers and therapists my child will regress, their progress will stall and my patience and parenting skills will be tested. But I'm not worried about keeping up with all the awesome homeschooling ideas and COVID-19 family schedules on Instagram and Pinterest.
Parenting a special needs child means that my parenting experience is different from my peers' a lot of the time and this is just going to be another example of that. But we have survived so much so far. We have survived the horrible time before our diagnosis when we didn't know what was going on with our child. We survived the diagnosis and all the feelings that comes with it.
And we will survive this. It just might not look good on the 'gram. But I can confidently say—I am okay with that.
Let this be your permission to be okay with whatever your 'that' is, too.