To the Parents of Children with Disabilities in the Class of 2020,
For the first time in the history of parenthood, every parent is standing in a place you know well. They are celebrating as well as grieving. You experience this daily, mostly with grace, and courage, and sometimes with anger, tears, and unbridled emotion. The world, in a small way, now understands how you feel.
Preparations for this moment have been in motion for years. You have worried, worked, begged, prayed (if that’s your thing), and fought to make it to this point. For some of you, your student’s exit from high school occurs long after your child turned 18. For others, school, as you imagined it would happen, never existed. For some, somewhere along the line, things clicked into place, and a job, higher education, or the military is in your children’s future. Soak it in; there is no need to pinch yourself; this moment is real. And at the center of all of these stories stands a warrior, and that warrior is you.
Today we salute you, fierce warriors. Give yourself a moment to acknowledge all you have accomplished. You deserve this moment. At some point, you recognized your child’s challenges. You brought them to the attention of people over and over again until someone heard you. You sat through more hours of IEP and CSE meetings than you thought were humanly possible. You ran cars to the ground while transporting your children to appointments, therapies, and groups.
Like any warrior, you defended your people, showing up for your children in ways “typical” parents can’t even dream. You built communities of honest, supportive friends who embraced your incredible family. You readjusted expectations when things did not go the right way. You got back up and kept getting up time and time again. When life seemed stacked against you, you threw in the towel, and then decided that giving up wasn’t an option. You kept showing up, you kept fighting, kept believing in your children. You loved so profoundly it hurt sometimes, and your children are better because of your love.
But you did not stop there. The most storied warriors do not live in isolation, but instead, train the next generation to achieve greater success. You are no different. You volunteered knowledge when you knew it could help another family in need. You lent supplies, swapped therapist names, and even a shoulder to cry on. While you struggled, you made time to lift others up. To help other parents of kids with disabilities know they were not alone. That makes you legendary.
Dear warrior, we, your fellow parents of children with disabilities, are in awe of you. You have reached a significant milestone today. Your success today brings us to hope that one day we too will stand where you are. We want you to know how lucky your children are to have such an incredible warrior on their team. They may not say it or show appreciation, but the spectators in your life can feel it.
Well done, mamas, papas, grandparents, family, and all those who have loved and cared for the children with disabilities in the graduating Class of 2020. We see you, we love you, and you inspire us.
Your Fellow Parents of Children with Disabilities