Charlie’s first day of school just so happened to be the day I gave birth to his brother and sister. This was not planned. Nothing about any of my pregnancies or deliveries or mom-life really was.
But ever since he turned two, High Hopes was part of the plan. It was the first place I felt at ease, the first place that let me unclench my hands and breathe a bit when it came to Charlie.
His wasn’t an easy beginning…a trach, a g-tube, and later a wheelchair. He’s a love, always quick with the hugs and kisses, but his needs are many and complex. I knew it would take a very special place to help him thrive. I didn’t want him lost in the shuffle.
It’s been almost four years since his first day at High Hopes and the birth of his twin siblings. And recently, I got to thinking about this circle of ours. It’s important as a parent of a child with special needs (or any human really) to build your tribe. You need your people. The ones you can rely on to help without question, to offer an ear without judgment, and who “get” your family and how it works. If you try to sail the ship alone, you’ll drown.
For us, that’s our family—my mother who lives .4 miles away (not that I’m counting) and my dad who, despite wearing scrubs to my house because of the snot and general stickiness, always takes the time to stretch Charlie and ask him about his day.
And outside of family, it’s High Hopes. It has been our wonderland, the place we fell into and continually recognize as magic. Charlie would not be as social and well-adjusted and intellectually stimulated if not for this school, and his most favorite teacher, and his physical and speech therapists. He got his first wheelchair here and his speaking device and his friends. It’s a place that has built a world for him that I could not have done on my own.
I’ve never been a group therapy person. I don’t have anything against it, but something about the parents loving other parents in a room with tissues and coffee makes it feel artificial. The relationship ends when the session is done. My tribe has been formed and solidified through both trauma and laughter. These are our people and we will attempt to return the love, but we are grateful to know that it doesn’t matter if we can’t. They don’t keep a tally. Find your tribe and keep them close.
High Hopes parent Jamie Sumner is a writer for Parenting Special Needs Magazine and an editor for Literary Mama. She is the author of the book, Unbound: Finding Freedom From Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood. She and her husband and three kids live in Franklin, Tennessee. You can find her at www.mom-gene.com.