The secret to becoming a more positive special needs parent
I stumbled upon a video today which made me stop, watch and instantly share on my facebook page.
Check it out and see whether you have a similar reaction…
Google’s Mo Gadwat eloquently expresses what I’ve come to believe myself. That happiness is all about managing expectations and developing a mindset that is open to seeing the positives and the opportunities in all we do.
He has taken this thinking one step further and has created a mathematic algorithm to measure happiness. Not being a mathematical genius or engineer myself, I’m not intending to live my life via any formula. But I 100% agree with his methodology for coming up with this equation.
His equation? Happiness is equal to or greater than the events of your life minus your expectation of how life should be. In short, the less expectations you have in life, the happier you will be, regardless of the events which may unfold.
Interestingly, the only thing you have any control of in this equation is your expectation of what life should be. Obviously, you cannot control the events of your life. It harks back to a lesson my parents used to tell me – you can’t control what life throws at you but you can control how you react to it.
This is 100% true, especially for special needs parents like myself.
Think about it.
I know from personal experience that most of my unhappiness, disappointment and grief comes from societal expectations. When we have kids, according to all the baby books, it’s expected they will hit certain development milestones. It’s also expected they will be healthy, happy and eventually conform to society.
When we have kids, it’s not expected they will receive a diagnosis or behave differently to the rest of society. It’s not expected they will be different and require additional needs. Hence the disappointment, grief and unhappiness that often comes with a diagnosis.
It’s not disappointment in our kids. We love them dearly.
It’s grief for the expectations we were taught to have by society. Expectations that will not be met.
It’s grief for the more difficult road ahead. The path less travelled, the one with little to no expectations of eventual value, success or happiness. The road no-one chooses to take.
Imagine a world without the stigma of disability. A world where everyone was valued on their individual merits, not on perceived deficits. A world where ability was celebrated, in every form. A world without expectations.
In this imaginary world, don’t you agree that your own experience as a special needs parent would be different? Don’t you agree you would feel happier and more content in a less judgmental and more inclusive world?
Wouldn’t the path less travelled be more inviting, welcoming and supported without the burden of expectation?
It took me a long time to see this in myself. For many years I grieved for my kids and for their “lost” futures. I grieved for all the things they were supposed to do but never would. I grieved for a life we would never live.
But then a chance conversation with Gilbert challenged my thinking and made me see the power of these societal expectations. I was finally able to appreciate what I had, rather than what I supposedly didn’t.
What was this life-changing conversation?
It was a couple of years ago, when Gilbert was still primary school. He asked me why I was so proud of him for playing with other kids at lunch. I replied that I was relieved he had friends now so he was no longer lonely in the playground.
He had spent 4 years beforehand playing by himself, hanging around a disused building and running through scripts and imaginary games. I was so happy and relieved to see him finally connect with others and develop friendships. Trying to be supportive, I wanted him to know how proud I was of him.
I’m not sure what reaction I was expecting but I didn’t expect this reply:
“But I was happy by myself Mum. I liked being alone and playing my game. I wasn’t lonely at all. And I still like playing my games sometimes. But most days I like playing with my friends.”
For the first time, I saw the power of my own expectations and beliefs. I had projected thoughts and feelings onto my boy while he was happily living his life and doing his thing.
He’s never cared about societal expectations. To be honest, I have to teach these to him so he is aware of expected behaviours and can understand what he can and can’t do in front of others.
But he’s lucky in some ways to have grown up free of these expectations. I’m hoping it will allow him to find his own way in the world and to embrace happiness without feeling the weight of societal expectations on his shoulders.
It was that moment I started to let go of my own expectations for his happiness. And, in doing so, I suddenly freed myself to find happiness too.
Expectations are powerful. If you expect a certain thing to happen, or a certain event to unfold in a particular way, you will be disappointed if it doesn’t pan out the way you expect.
But if you loosen, lower or become more flexible in your own expectations, the inevitable disappointment will be less. You will become more content, happier and less prone to reacting blindly to life.
Because you will have gained control of the one facet of the happiness equation that you do have control over. Your expectation of what life should be like.
Managing your own expectations is much easier said than done. I know this all too well. But I do have a few strategies that might help you with this.
I’ve put together a guide on finding the positives in special needs parenting. It’s the way I’ve been able to find positivity in my own life and I hope it can help you too. There are steps you can follow right now to help adjust your expectations, embrace the reality of your life and start identifying the positives.
I promise you, it IS possible.
Sign up to my email list below to get your free copy of the guide. I promise I don’t spam – I send a newsletter once a month and a post each week. That’s it.
If you’ve already accessed the guide as a subscriber, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Obviously this all makes sense to me but it might not be as clear to you. I’d love to be able to improve it for you and for others too.
What do you do to seek more positivity in your life?
What do you think of Mo Gadwat’s formula for happiness?
Do you want to become a more positive special needs parent?
Sign up to grab your free guide now! Full of practical advice from a fellow special needs parent.