The other day, as I was thinking about this blog, a song popped into my head. It was The Road Goes Ever On and On, from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I suspect it isn’t in your “top 20 hits” list! The important thing is that it is a walking song, sung by travelers on their journey—when they first begin, and then later, as they realize that it is a longer, more difficult and dangerous, and much less predictable road than they’d thought it would be. It begins:
“The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.”
Maybe it’s the change in light as autumn arrives, but I was also reminded of a poem by Langston Hughes that everyone probably has heard. The first verse reads:
“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”
When I think about our journeys as parents of special needs children, I would say that these poems pretty much sum up the two most important ideas we should keep in mind. We all need comfort, support and a sense of perspective as we travel, and these little verses can help.
- Truth #1—the road ahead is probably not going to be short, or easy.
For some parents, there will be a good educational plan or outside service that supports your child and allows him or her to make effective progress.
For others, it will take some time, effort, money, evaluations and skilled help, but you will see progress and have hope of a future with few limitations for your child
For many parents, their journey doesn’t really have an “end”, a point where their children are independent of their help. Lifetime care and services will be needed.
- Truth #2—For parents to keep their peace of mind, and the ability to keep giving (and getting) what their children need, it is necessary to remember and value their dreams for those children.
The late Senator Edward Kennedy noted that for those who work to make life better for people with all kinds of needs, “the task is never done, and the dream never dies”. This is so very important. When I am busy and hassled and discouraged, it is easy to forget that I had hopes and dreams for my child with special needs—that I saw a bright future where my child used his gifts and was happy. Well, the dream may change in shape, but we must not let it disappear.
When parents can hold on to a dream for their children, they will communicate that dream in many different ways. In addition to giving themselves the energy to keep going, it will offer their children a sense of value and importance, even as they struggle with their special needs. It will remind their children that they still have certain skills, talents and ideas. These children have something unique to offer the world. We parents and professionals may have to help them figure out what that “something” may be. But we can’t do it unless we can hold in our minds a picture of what our dreams are, for this one special child.
It is not an easy task, but it is essential if we are going to keep going “ever on and on” down the road of helping these children find and grow their dreams. What do you think?