Do you mean what you say? You should.
Because parents like me, with special needs kids and lots of irons in the fire, are counting on it. We all fail at meaning what we say and saying what we mean. I don’t claim innocence or perfection in this arena – not even a little bit. But I do my best, and I hope you do, too.
Like most people, we don’t want to ask for help; we may be too proud, or too embarrassed, or too independent, or too afraid to show weakness, or what-have-you to ask for the help that we need. But unlike most people, there’s another reason that gnaws at our insides and forces us to keep our traps shut and to put on a brave face.
We know what society believes about disability.
We know what happens to most babies diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome. We’ve heard the faux-compassion language that destroys: burden to society, end suffering, and all the rest that reinforce the message that our children are less than. We don’t want to admit things are hard, because we don’t want people to see our children and decide they aren’t worth it.
When we finally ask for help, we desperately need it.
You may offer help for years before we let down our guard and accept it, but don’t let our hesitancy lull you into thinking that we’ll never accept it. Every time that you make an offer of help – before you ever open your mouth, send that text, write that email, or make that phone call – be sure that you mean it.
Because the day we finally let our guard down, if you don’t follow through, it will crush us.
We’ll never let down our guard again, which may be okay with you if you didn’t intend to go out of your way to help us, anyway. Not much will change for you, though you may wonder why you don’t hear from us as much anymore.
But our guard will stay up with others, too.
Other people, who are more willing and able to do what is asked, will never be asked, because we were hurt too much the first time to risk asking again. We’ll soldier on with our brave faces and circle our wagons and adopt as our mantra that we’re all alone in this fight.
It’s okay if you can’t help us – we know that everyone’s time and resources are in high demand, and in some seasons of life we can give, while in others the well is frustratingly dry. We get it.
But if you’re going to step forward with an offer of help, a pledge not to use the R-word, a promise to call, or anything else in an effort to lighten our load just a tiny bit, make sure there’s a will behind those words.
Photo Courtesy Wim Mulder/Flickr