February can be a tough month for parents of children with special needs. Children react to the weather or the increase in academic difficulty at school or the disruptions of snow days and winter breaks and behave miserably. Specialist appointments and IEP meetings roll around. Extended family members, freed from the holiday requirements of fellowship and good cheer, get back to telling you what they think. Even Valentine's Day can be hard, if you have a child who can't say "I love you" or doesn't want to hear it. Whether you're stuck in the winter doldrums or gearing up for a confrontation, stop by this page every day in February for some appreciation, affirmation and inspiration. And remember that, as hard as February can be, at least it's a short month.
Feb. 28 ♥ YOU ARE AN INSPIRATION. You may feel you need inspiration. Reading essays like "Welcome to Holland" or "The Special Mother" or Web pages like this one may keep you going on days when you're feeling less than hopeful. But you have a fair amount of inspirational power yourself. Others who feel they could never handle what you do are inspired by what you are able to accomplish -- and people who have to handle the things you do are inspired by your example to try their hardest. Your efforts may inspire changes in the way others interact with your child and with all the other children to follow. The next time you're in need of a little inspiration, just look at all the lives you've changed with your love and hard work. You really don't need to look any further than that.
Feb. 27 ♥ YOU ARE PATIENT. When patience is called for, anyway. You understand that life is not a race, and that even slow progress is progress. You try to give your child the time and space necessary to grow and develop and improve, even though can hardly wait to get past current hard times or to see future success. Speaking more slowly, expecting less, repeating lessons not quite learned, waiting for catch-up, working at whatever level is most appropriate -- you've learned how to show the patience your child may so desperately need, even when you're screaming inside for him or her to hurry up already! But woe to the school official or insurance company or medical professional who tries your patience too severely -- you know how to let that screaming out, too.
Feb. 26 ♥ YOU CARE. It would be so much easier if you didn't. If you didn't care how your child was doing in school, you wouldn't have to battle over homework or spend hours reviewing and reteaching. If you didn't care how your child behaved, you wouldn't have to keep finding new and improved disciplinary strategies. If you didn't care about your child's relationships, you wouldn't have to worry about social skills and awkward playdates. If you didn't care about your child's future, you wouldn't have to go on about self-care skills and self-control and self-regulation. You may sometimes adjust your efforts as you realize that things you care too much about aren't really so significant, but you never stop caring about the most important things: your child's happiness and well-being.
Feb. 25 ♥ YOU ARE A FIGHTER. Sometimes you have an actual person to battle against -- a specialist, a teacher, an administrator, an insensitive family member, a playground bully, your own stubborn child. Sometimes your opponent is less concrete -- a disease, a disability, a milestone that keeps moving away or a skill your child just can't seem to master. And sometimes you end up fighting against yourself -- subduing your fears, conquering your doubts, attacking your insecurities. Regardless of the foe, you're in it to win it. Surrender is not an option. You may negotiate and agree to a treaty or observe a ceasefire, or you may scorch the earth and take no prisoners, but you'll fight the good fight as long as there is any fight left in you -- and then you'll fight some more.
Feb. 24 ♥ YOU ARE FULL OF SURPRISES. That's certainly true when you're dealing with your child. You know that surprises can be a great way to motivate, amuse, distract and discipline, and you try to always have a big bag of tricks on hand. But you have the element of surprise going for you in other areas, too. Doctors may be surprised to find that you have strong opinions about your child's treatment, and have some facts and observations to back them up. School personnel may be surprised that you have solid, well-thought-out suggestions for how your child should be taught and handled, and have done your homework when it comes to your child's rights and the school's responsibilities. But the one who may be most surprised by your abilities is ... you! Who knew you could do this?