There are some parts about being a mom that I’ve got down. I can cook a dinner that 4 people with different tastes and various dietary needs can all enjoy, and I can do it in under 30 minutes. I can negotiate an IEP meeting and not be intimidated by a table-full of district employees. I can have honest talks about sex and drugs with my pre-teen without stumbling over my words, and I can translate Nate’s rudimentary language accurately into sophisticated thoughts and ideas without even giving it a second thought.
There are other things I face as a mom that make me sweat and want to hide under my covers: 6th grade math, keeping the laundry going, firm discipline, and maybe the worst of all special-needs parenting obstacles: Starting and sticking with a behavior plan. I hate (and stink at) picking a behavior Nate needs to improve upon, and then devising a plan to help modify the behavior. Even as I’m typing those words I feel a sneer creeping across my face, and my blood pressure is climbing.
Why do I sneer at the thought of a behavior plan? Because I honestly think I’m biologically averse to little charts, and token systems, and “earning privileges”. It doesn’t work with my laid back, it-will-all-work-out attitude. It’s a lot of work, causes more problems initially, and tends to make everyone around me really grumpy! And to be clear, I’m not saying I’m OK with coloring on walls, screaming in restaurants and throwing toys out windows, but rather that I sort of hope they will work themselves out…
But here’s the kicker: My husband, who can sometimes bother me with his stubbornness and rule-following, is really good at this. He’s so much better than me at deciding something needs to be done, making the appointment with the behavioral specialist, buying the (stupid) tokens, and then implementing the plan. He’s way better than me at ignoring the tears and negotiating tactics of a (supposedly) non-verbal child. He’s even good at getting me on board and actually giving out the tokens!
Co-parenting children with special needs is not always easy. There are more decisions on which to agree (or disagree), more problems to collaborate on solving, and more high-stress moments/days/weeks than the average family. We can’t all be experts at all aspects of parenting. The hope is that we can recognize our own strengths and weaknesses, and that our spouse can fill in the gaps where our skills and gifts leave off. The additional hope is that even in the trenches, when toys are flying out windows and new wall art is appearing overnight, we can take the time to recognize the contribution we both make, and to be thankful for the gifts we both offer. I admit I’m not always great at doing that, but I’m trying! It’s possible a token system would help, but it’s not really my thing.