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Sometimes we 'amazing' parents of special-needs kids are just muddling through

By Megan Goates, KSL.com Contributor  |  Posted Feb 17th, 2014 @ 8:40pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — Is there a word or a phrase that you just can't stand hearing? You know how that is, just wanting to cringe when you hear a word that irritates you?

Maybe this is an English major problem.

Or maybe you're like my sister, who shudders whenever she hears the word moist because she thinks it sounds so gross, especially when my other sisters realize how much she hates the word and make a point to use it repeatedly on a family vacation in a moist subtropical place.

Perhaps it's something like the phrase "couldn't care less," which people constantly misquote without realizing that it completely changes the meaning without that “n't” at the end.

It could be something like the oft-repeated phrase, "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it." It's often attributed to Jesus, but (as my husband likes to point out) Jesus never actually said it. It's a made-up quote and it's misrepresented origin makes him crazy. This, from the guy who intentionally mispronounces locations — making Evanston into Evingston — just to annoy people.

Like I said, maybe these are English major problems, or problems with being married to an English major type.

Either way, the other day at church I heard someone use the word amazing to describe the parents of a special-needs child. The word amazing is often used to describe such parents, who can find it difficult to swallow because it feels a little lofty and frankly untrue. It's a word that applies pressure, even as it attempts to indicate respect.

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It's a word that makes me cringe.

I get that when people say it to me about the way I parent my two boys with special needs. They are being kind, they mean it honestly, but I wish to respectfully disagree.

"Amazing" is a Vera Wang wedding gown on a glowing bride. It's a salted caramel cupcake. It's a cool dip in a swimming pool on an August afternoon. It is the view from the top of Mountair into Parley's Canyon. It is a summer morning when children sleep late and wake up happy.

"Amazing" is harder to swallow when you're angry plenty of the time, and frustrated, and ready to knock the block off the next person who drops his pants and makes a “code brown” on the living room rug. "Amazing" should move on to the next house, because the mom at this house gets snippy and sharp when everyone is pestering her with their sensory integration needs and their communication delays, and she often feels seriously tired of the omnipresent messes. "Amazing" needs to go away.

As someone who is mostly just muddling through, I think we should bring things down a notch.

So anyway, back to church. There I sat in an LDS gospel doctrine class, listening to this person tell a couple of my neighbors that they are amazing parents as they raise their son with special needs. I listened and cringed a little — mostly because the person using the word amazing was me.

It was me. I said it, and immediately regretted it — not because it was untrue, but because I know how I feel about amazing.

I wish I had said this instead: "Bless you."

Or this: "That must be hard."

Or this: "Tell me more about your son."

Because amazing is for sunsets and frocks and luscious desserts. Not so much for a real, wacky life.


Megan Goates is a Westminster College and USU alumnus, a mother, and a blogger at http://herestooursurvival.blogspot.com.

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