Last month I published a blog regarding strategies for dealing with the COVID quarantine, specifically as a single special needs parent. While my intention with this piece was to focus on strategies to help support those in a single parenting role, I did suggest that they could be tailored for any parent, married, separated or divorced. This month, I would like to focus on one of these strategies in particular, and this is the last of the “Three C’s” that I developed, and this would be Compassion. Upon first reading, you might not consider compassion to be any kind of a practical strategy to deal with your spouse, co-parent or special needs child. But the reality is, based on the lengths of these quarantines around the country now, and all of the fallout that both businesses and families are experiencing, I believe that compassion is and will be needed now more than ever.
Compassion for who though, you may ask? Compassion for my special needs child, sure, I can easily see that, and in the case of my own child, I know how difficult it is for someone like him who is just confined to one of his now two homes at a time, not able to freely wander a park or climb on top of a playground. Outings now are confined to walking strictly on one side of a sidewalk or path, with an arm always around him to help keep him from veering too far off to the middle of the trail.
What about compassion for myself? Of course you want it for yourself also, as we are all hurting in our own special, unique way. Have you dealt with a job loss, depression, lack of faith, monetary issues, or any number of other things? In my case, I have probably gone through most of those, as you may very well have as well, and so it’s important to remind ourselves to be gentle. Give yourself a little break (or a big one ) regarding wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of this crisis. When you have compassion for yourself you can find it’s much easier to pass it down to your children.
Anyone else? Yes, actually I think most importantly we need to have compassion for our spouses, or in my case my child’s co-parent. Whether you are married, separated or divorced, it is critical to remember compassion for the person that shares your parenting load, especially when all school age kids are home. In last month’s article, I specifically highlighted how even though I am now divorced, I still need to respect my son’s mom for who she is and what she gives to him. This is when we need to have the most compassion for our other halves, whether they are still going out to work everyday, and therefore putting themselves at a potential health risk, or if they are the ones at home, supporting our children, leading school at home lessons and activities, and most of all keeping them entertained. It is easy to go into “default” mode in light of a crisis like this, and just let our better half or our child’s other parent take responsibility, when in reality it is up to us to remember not just who we are, but who we will be when this is all over, and compassion for the ones who share this journey with us is such a necessary thing.
During this shutdown, I have been enjoying the guilty pleasure of catching up on many of my favorite streaming shows that I usually watch at night before bed. One such show is about a family with an autistic son that experiences strife when the mom has an affair. During one of the shows when the dad in the family was talking with a friend, there was a great pearl of wisdom shared, which was essentially: “One day, your anger towards her will be gone, but she will always be his mom.” This struck me as such great advice for where we are in our family relationships now. One day, the COVID crisis will be over, one day life will go back to normal, one day the harsh words or words or feelings shared while we are under quarantine will wash away, one day the anger we we have towards those that disappointed us will end…but dad will always be dad, mom will always be mom, our kids will always be ours, and we will still belong to God. Let’s all make sure we don’t ever forget that, during this or any other struggle we may face tomorrow.