Ontario Education: Open Letter To The Teachers At My Sons’ Schools

3196112204_8903a3cdce_zDear teachers,

There are many people who think you have a cushy job, with seven-hour workdays and two months off every summer. They say that you are overpaid, underworked, lazy and uncaring. Any time there is a labour dispute in the Ontario education system, like there is now, you are accused of trying to suck the taxpayer dry in order to line your own pockets.

Let me tell you what I think, teachers.

I think you guys totally ROCK.

Since my firstborn son started school in 2007, I have gained an appreciation for just how hard you work. I have come to understand that your workdays extend far beyond classroom hours, that report cards and IEP’s involve a lot more than simply punching data into a computer, and that a great deal of thought and time goes into the lessons you teach and the projects you assign.

Being a teacher is HARD. You have to juggle the needs of your students, the demands of their parents and the rules of the Ontario education system. While you understand that other people sometimes have bad days, you are on your game all the time. You spend your days doing a job that most people wouldn’t want for all the money in the world – which is kind of ironic, considering that many think you should be paid less.

While people across Ontario have been hating on you for pursuing your right to do your jobs properly, you have kept going, helping my boys learn and grow, giving your work the same dedication and focus that you always have.  Here are just a few of the things you have been doing, over and above teaching my kids.

* You have taken my son and rest of the track and field team to their competition events. Even now that the competitions are over, you are still showing up at school early so that those kids who want to continue their morning runs can do so.

* You have taken your eighth grade classes on their graduation trips, and you have been hard at work planning extra-special graduation days for them.

* You came to school early one morning on a day that you were not assigned to teach, just so that you could fulfil your before-school yard duty and ensure the safety of my son and his friends.

* You hefted a cardboard box out of your car one Monday morning, and when I asked what it was, you said that it was projects you had graded over the weekend, as well as materials for an upcoming student assignment that you had prepared and photocopied on your own time.

* You dug around in your classroom searching for a book that you knew my son would enjoy reading during the summer.

* You organized a water play day for the younger kids, and you allowed my son and his classmates to help run it, so that they could develop their leadership skills.

* You have not gone to bed before midnight for the last week, because you’ve been putting together picture slideshows and videos for your Kindergarten class’s graduation celebration.

* You have been tirelessly working on ways to help my autism boy develop his speech and communication skills, and you have been helping him develop life skills that will take him far beyond the classroom.

Here’s a little something that I know about you, teachers. You don’t just do this for the money. You do it because you truly care about the kids you are teaching. This is more than “just a job” for you. When you go to work every day, you are not simply earning a paycheque. You are shaping futures and opening up worlds of opportunity for my boys.

I will miss getting report cards for my boys this year. I will miss reading your carefully thought out commentaries on what their last term of the school year has been like. It will be strange to not see their grades for each subject.

But I understand why you’re not doing them. I understand that you are taking on a government that wants to choke the Ontario education system and make it more difficult for you to teach my kids effectively. There are people who are trying to claim that this is all about money and benefits, but I know that is so far from the truth that it might as well be on another planet.

I know that right now, you are not fighting for yourselves. You are fighting for my children. You are fighting for the future of our society.

For that, I thank you. Stay with the fight, teachers. And when you hear or read about parents criticizing you for taking a stand, know that there are parents out there who completely support you.


A grateful parent

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: woodleywonderworks. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


Keeping The Conversation Going


When Robin Williams committed suicide back in August, a friend predicted that everyone would post obsessively about depression awareness for a week before forgetting about it and moving on. Apart from the duration – the posts lasted for two weeks – her prediction was dead-on.

Three months after the death of Mr. Williams, Facebook and Twitter posts about mental illness had all but disappeared. Then a woman named Brittany Maynard started trending on social media when she chose assisted suicide over a horrible death from cancer.

Reactions to her death have been all over the place. There are those who believe Brittany’s decision showed courage and strength of character, and there are those who are convinced that she is burning in hell because of her selfishness and disobedience of God.

I want to make it clear that I am in no way equating the deaths of Robin Williams and Brittany Maynard. Robin Williams fought a long battle with depression. He felt desperate and hopeless, and when he looked into the future all he could see was a bleak, desolate landscape. Brittany Maynard was not suffering from depression, and she did not want to die. She simply knew that her death was both inevitable and imminent, and she wanted to spare herself and her family the ravages of brain cancer.

The only thing the two deaths have in common is that both individuals chose to take their own lives.

Whether or not terminally ill people are obligated to see their diseases through to the bitter end is a matter of personal opinion, and that’s another debate for another day. The thing that I took issue with after Brittany died was a comment posted by one of my Facebook contacts on a link to the story.

“Anyone who commits suicide is selfish.”

I was certain that I had seen the commenter’s name crop up in one of the discussions following the death of Robin Williams, so I started digging around in the bowels of her newsfeed. It took a while, but I found it: a statement to the effect that people really shouldn’t judge those to take their own lives without walking a mile in a depressed person’s shoes.

I’m not usually one to start a fight, but one thing I cannot stand is hypocrisy, and as an advocate for mental health awareness, I couldn’t just let it go. So I went back to the Brittany Maynard discussion and replied to her comment, reminding her of what she had said when Robin Williams died. She didn’t respond. Unfortunately, her comment about suicide being selfish was far from isolated.

I am left feeling somewhat disheartened. Did we learn nothing from the Robin Williams tragedy? If, three months later, people are spouting those cruel stereotypes that they previously vowed to help fight, how are we ever going to move forward? Will we ever be able to continue the discussions, or are we going to keep having to start the same discussions over and over again?

I don’t expect everyone to start posting endlessly about mental illness, but I would love to see it consistently treated with the same respect that is given to physical illness. I would love for people to feel able to talk about their experiences with mental illness without fear of embarrassment or shame. I would love to see the judgments and blame replaced with understanding and support.

And I would love to see more meaningful conversations that are not triggered by tragedy.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Victor. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


10 Things I Have Learned About Mental Illness


1. It’s not my fault. As much as we humans like to be in control of our lives, the likes of depression, anxiety and PTSD are not things we can control. They happen to us, and we deal with them as best we can.

2. It has absolutely no bearing on whether I am a good or a bad person. The fact that I made some bad decisions twenty years ago that triggered a whole mess of crap does not mean I don’t deserve to be happy and well.

3. The fact that an illness exists inside a person’s mind rather than in another part of their body does not make it any less of an illness. Mental illness should be given the same respect as physical illness.

4. Mental illness can, if left untreated, be fatal. Suicide and suicidal ideations are not selfish, as many people believe. They are manifestations of an illness. People contemplating suicide do not necessarily want to die, they simply feel that there is no other course of action available to them.

5. Depression is not the same as sadness. Being depressed is like being in a black pit of despair from which there seems to be no escape.

6. There is not always a reason for depression. If someone tells you that they are experiencing depression, please, please, please don’t say things like, “But you have so many great things in your life to be grateful for.”

7. I am not alone. Although my specific circumstances may be unique to me, I don’t have to look far to find someone who more or less understands what it’s like.

8. Far too many people either die or spend their lives in a state of absolute anguish because they fear the stigma of mental illness, so they choose not to talk about it.

9. Mental illness is the same as physical illness in terms of treatment: what works for one person won’t necessarily work for everyone. You have the right to make choices about your treatment, just as you do for a physical illness.

10. People with mental illnesses can, for the most part and with the right support, function well in society. They can be successful in their careers, make valuable social and economic contributions, and maintain healthy relationships with the people around them.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Bell Let’s Talk.


2013: Magic Moments From Around The World


2013 was not a good year for me. After a reasonable enough start, I lost my job in May, at around the same time one of my best friends passed away. Throughout the summer I fought an uphill battle with depression as life dealt me one blow after another. Fortunately, though, I am a natural optimist. I go through life with the attitude that no matter how bad things are, they will always get better, and there is always something for me to be thankful for. I have my husband and children, a roof over my head, clean running water and autism services for my son. That alone puts me way ahead of many people in the world.

Among all of the loss and heartbreak, there have been some shining moments this year. I had a very enjoyable and much-needed break in Niagara Falls with my family, I ran a half-marathon personal best for my autism run, and after years of procrastination I wrote a book in thirty days.

I posted a message on Facebook asking people to share their best moments from 2013, and I got some great responses. There was a lot of joy going around this year.

My friend Patti, for instance, has been dreaming of going to Europe for a long, long time. This year, she finally got to go.

Margie, who never fails to inspire me with how spectacularly she has turned her life around over the last few years, got married to the love of her life.

In January, Debbie from South Africa became a Grandma! She has also been rethinking her attitude to life by surrounding herself with inspirational people, things and activities.

One of my favourite responses came from liver transplant recipient Bill. He says, “I am alive. Every day above ground is a good day. Everything else is just icing on the cake.”

Noella sent one of my other favourite responses. She lost her beloved husband to cancer – a scary and sad time for her – and yet she is focused on how her needs have been met to the extent that she can help others. Here is what she says: “I am amazed at the outpouring of love and help from my local and internet community. I thought this season would be extremely difficult, but I have felt Bill with me almost every day these last several days, and he says to me, “It’s okay, I’m okay, and you’re going to be okay; it is the way it’s supposed to be.” There was even a moment when I was taking a shower when I remembered him walking in on me and joining me. Made me giggle as he seemed so close like he was doing it again. Gives me great comfort.”

Then there is fellow Canadian Jacquie, an online friend who I had the absolute pleasure of meeting this year. Jacquie is a special needs mom like me. Her younger son is adopted. Jacquie’s highlight was going to an adoption conference and learning that she is not “a bad and crazy mother”. I could have told her that for free, but you know… Adoption is not easy – as an adoptee I can testify to how challenging it was for my mom as I was growing up – and it gave Jacquie great comfort to know that she is not alone.

Kane used to live in Michigan, where there is lots of snow. This year, he moved to Texas, where there is – well – not a lot of snow. His reason for moving? To be with the love of his life. He says, “This is the most awesome I have ever been.”

Tawnya, another fellow Canuck who has been a great source of friendship and support this year, didn’t have a great year. Her husband contracted a very serious lung infection – so serious that doctors told her to call family members. She received overwhelming support from family and friends during a very scary time, and her husband survived.

Finally, my crazy New Zealander friend Karyn (whose initiation as a runner I totally take credit for) shares another story of survival. Her father-in-law had Stage Four bowel cancer. Anyone who knows anything about cancer will know that this is not good. But he got the all-clear, proving that sometimes, miracles do happen.

I am truly grateful to the people mentioned in this post for sharing their stories, and for giving us a slice of happiness to take with us into 2014. I wish the best of years to every single person reading this. If you have your own gem from the last year to share, please do so in the comments!

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle, with input from some pretty awesome people. Photo credit: jenny downing. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.


What I Hope

2013-01-25 17.01.48

I hope that George knows I will always support him in whatever he wants to do, and that I will never see his autism as an obstacle.

I hope that when I am weathering the challenges of autism with George, I am acting in a way that helps him instead of hindering him.

I hope that James knows I understand how tough it must be, being the sibling of a child with autism.

I hope that James knows how immensely I value him as an individual in his own right, and that he is not defined by virtue of being George’s brother.

I hope that George knows he is not defined by autism, but that autism is just one part of who he is.

I hope that the moments of weakness that I have – those times when my desperation and sense of being overwhelmed spill over – do not undermine my kids and cause them lasting damage.

I hope that my better moments – the laughter and the hugs and the words of encouragement – build up their confidence and self-esteem.

I hope that I can always be the kind of autism mom who never gives up a fight, no matter how hard and scary it can be.

I hope that when I talk to strangers about autism, or when I write about it, I am doing so in a way that will help both of my kids as they navigate their way through life.

I hope that I will have the courage to stand up to anyone who ever tries to hurt my kids.

I hope that my kids know that when autism parenting just gets too hard for me to handle and I need to spend time by myself, it’s not because of them. It’s because of my own fears and insecurities that I want to protect them from.

I hope that my kids know I love them without reservation, without boundaries, and beyond the ends of time.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)


Oscar Pistorius: The Story We Don’t Know

As the parent of a child with a disability, I am always inspired by people who overcome all kinds of odds to accomplish amazing things. We need something to hold onto, us special needs parents. Specifically, we need hope. We need to know that given the right opportunities and encouragement, our kids have the potential to succeed. We don’t expect them to win the Nobel Prize or win gold medals at the Olympics, but we want to know that they have it in them to lead happy and productive lives.

When a South African athlete by the name of Oscar Pistorius became the first disabled man to compete in both the regular Olympics and the Paralympics in London last year, I was awestruck. Dubbed as the fastest man on no legs, Pistorius has been breaking world records left, right and centre.

I have been very vocal in my admiration for this man. As a runner, I am impressed with his sheer athletic talent. As a human being, I have been inspired by his spirit, and his nothing-can-stop-me attitude. I’ve never had a sense of him feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he’s just accepted the fact that he doesn’t have legs, and he’s kind of gotten on with things.

I have placed him on a pedestal and regarded him as a kind of hero.

This morning, I woke up to the shocking news that Pistorius has been arrested, and faces a murder charge in connection with the shooting death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp. The incident happened in his house at about three in the morning. Neighbours heard screaming and shouting followed by gunshots. The couple were the only people in the house at the time, and Pistorius is the registered owner of the gun that was used to kill his girlfriend.

Around the world, companies are trying to decide how to manage their professional relationships with Pistorius. Some are pulling ads featuring the athlete; others are adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Public reactions are all over the map. Some say this tragedy was a terrible accident, while others are referring to Pistorius as a cold-blooded killer. Distressingly, some tasteless jokes – yes, jokes in the wake of this terrible incident – are circulating on the Internet.

And what of bloggers like myself? Over the last few months, I have posted several things in support of Oscar Pistorius, not only here on my blog, but on my Facebook page and my Twitter feed. I received an email from a reader today asking if I intended to remove those postings or speak out against what Pistorius did.

My answer, quite simply, is that I don’t know what Pistorius did. I’m not even willing to venture a guess or express an opinion – not until more is known about what happened. I do not intend to glorify him and insist that he couldn’t have willfully murdered the deceased, nor am I going to demonize him and say he must have done it. I just don’t know. None of us do, and I am not willing to join those who are already starting to try him in the court of public opinion.

Like some of those international companies, I am going to follow this story as closely as I can, and I am going to just wait and see.

(Photo credit: Nick J Webb. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)


Teen Series Part 3: Don’t Make Empty Promises

Last week I introduced you to Vicky Rinfreschi, a South African teenager with wise words. She has a close and open relationship with her parents, and her love and respect from them can be clearly seen in her words. Last week she gave advice that can help parents attain that kind of relationship with their teenage kids, and today she is back with more. Without further ado, here are the rest of Vicky’s words, uncut and unedited.

DON’T MAKE EMPTY PROMISES! This is just as bad as lying. My parents aren’t perfect but they are pretty close. Even so this was an area when we used to butt heads quite a lot. Now that I’m older I do understand – but at the time it caused me hours of misery. You have to be aware that a child’s memory is loads better than that of an older person. They remember EVERYTHING! You will say a mindless comment like, “Not now honey just a bit later and I PROMISE I will play that game with you.” Or “Next weekend I PROMISE we will go to that shop and find it”. Everyone has said something along those lines just so you could get a moments rest. But then did you do it? My parents had a track record of 6 out of 10 when it came to doing that thing later (if it wasn’t a priority – such as a board game etc.). I understand that to an adult your child’s little requests aren’t such a high priority, like Kirsten said, worrying about feeding your kids is higher on the list than going to the beach; but to your child , even your teenager (though you might find it hard to believe), nothing could be more important. It’s a cry for quality time. It may even be (as it was for me) that your child wants to distract YOU from your worries and make you smile for a period of time no matter how small. So before you make that statement make sure you can back it up with action and before you blow off that action think about how nice it would be to connect with your child before you’re no longer the centre of their life. That period of time when your child idolises you won’t last long. Enjoy it now and maybe, just maybe they will never stop idolising you. I haven’t. Everyday I strive to be as wise and loving as my mom and as smart, strong and as caring as my dad. Be the parent you wished your parents were, and trust me you won’t go wrong.

Another big issue is MONEY. Be honest about your finances. I remember when I was little I had no concept about money; I just knew what I wanted, when I wanted it and that was often right then and there. Most parents make the mistake of saying no to their kids without giving them a reason – leading that child to believe that “my mommy/daddy don’t love me because they wouldn’t get me that toy/chocolate.”  Don’t make that mistake. My family have been through ups and downs when it comes to finances. Some years money was abundant and birthdays, weekends and Christmases were filled with all sorts of goodies. But some years money was tight (really tight) and we couldn’t afford the little goodies that make children feel loved, but my parents where HONEST about it. Yes I would be disappointed for about 5 seconds but I got over it because IT WASN’T THAT MAY PARENTS DIDN’T LOVE ME – they would have bought me the earth if I so desired it. Don’t think that just because we are young we won’t understand. We perceive a lot more than most adults. Show your kids that they don’t need little gifts for you to prove your love – good old fashioned quality time at home with a soccer ball or board game does the trick ten times over. So give up a little television or facebook time and play a game with your child. Trust me. That’s a foundation that you should nurture from the beginning.

The biggest thing and maybe the main reason why I consider my mother one of my best friends and my father my advisor, is because they never let me forget, not for 1 second, how much they loved and supported me. IN EVERYTHING, NO MATTER WHAT! It may seem frivolous; but to randomly go up to your child and tell them that you love them and that you are proud of them actually makes a huge difference. Especially (even though most won’t admit it) to a teenager. He/she might have had a typical downer teenager day at school and you, with no hidden agendas, telling them how much you love and them, could turn the dark cloud they have been nurturing with self-loathing thoughts, into a fluffy pink one filled with love and confidence. You don’t need a reason to express your love for them. And make sure they know that no action could change how you feel;  yes you might get mad or be disappointed for a bit but that’s because your love runs so deep and so strong that you wish you could take away all the problems and hurt. Let them know that you are a safe place for secrets and advice. DON’T BREAK THAT CONFIDENCE EVER!!!!

In short; treat your children as you would want to be treated, because they will do as you do and not what you say. Trust your kids and they will trust you as long as you show them that they can. And most importantly earn their respect by showing them respect and your relationship will evolve into a beautiful friendship that will last for the rest of your lives.

(Photo credit: Vagawi. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)


Dear George

For the last week, I have been participating in the WEGO Health “Advocating for Another” challenge. Life got in the way of blogging over the last few days, so I am a day behind.

Yesterday’s prompt: When I was your age… – Write a letter to your child/ren starting off the with the phrase “When I was your age…” share a story of your own with them.

Dearest George,

When I was your age, I was very much like you. I had the same shyness, the same difficulty with speech, the same awkwardness around people I didn’t know. Learning was difficult for me until someone realized that I was smart but couldn’t learn in the same way as other people.

The world was a different place then, when I was an eight-year-old girl. In the late 1970’s, there was no Internet, so my parents couldn’t Google my symptoms. While diagnoses like autism existed, they were not very common, and not easy to come by unless the doctors knew exactly what they were looking for.

Throughout my childhood, I was sent for tests and assessments, but the most my parents were ever told was that I had “learning disabilities”. No-one was really sure what that even meant.

Like you, I loved books. I remember the summer I learned how to read. It was as if a door to a whole new world had opened to me. My newfound love of reading was both a relief and a source of worry to my parents. On the one hand, I could read, and this is something that everyone wants for their children. But on the other hand, the more I delved into the world of books, the more I withdrew from the world I lived in.

In spite of my rough beginnings, I turned out OK. I graduated high school, got myself a university degree and some post-graduate qualifications. I have a reasonable career, and most important of all, I have my family. You, your dad, and your brother.

You see, even though teachers and doctors didn’t really know what to do with kids like me, I was lucky enough to be part of a loving, supportive family.

My dad was always there for me to talk to, anytime I needed. He was my kindred spirit in many ways, sharing my love of reading, and later, my enthusiasm for running. He was like my rock of support, something that would never waver in the harshest of storms.

My brother and I fought like cat and dog, but in the end, we would have moved the earth for each other. God help anyone who hurt my brother’s little sister.

And my mom, your granny – she was a pillar of strength and support for me. She never doubted that I was capable of succeeding in life, and she helped steer me in the right direction. She worked tirelessly with me, making sure I was doing my homework, reading with me, being my advocate at school.

I often had conflicts with all of the members of my family. There were times when I wanted to run far, far away.

But there was never a time when I doubted that my family loved me and were there for me. When things got stormy, I always knew that the storm would pass and everything would be OK.

This is what my hope is for you. Parents and kids argue. Brothers fight. All of that is part of life. But I hope you know that no matter what, you are loved more than you could possibly know.

Please know that we are here for you, and always will be. I hope that can be at least half the mother to you that my mother was to me.

I love you always,


(Photo from Kirsten Doyle’s archive of childhood pictures)



Autism Diagnosis: Blessing, Curse, or Both?

Receiving my older son’s autism diagnosis four and a half years ago was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, this diagnosis meant that there was something wrong with my son. I had known this for a long time, of course, but having it told to me officially meant that I could no longer hide behind the cloak of denial. I had to face the fact that my child had a developmental disability that would, in all likelihood, affect him for the rest of his life.

On the other hand, though, having the diagnosis meant that we could now get our son the help that he needed. Instead of having a vague sense that there was “something wrong”, we had a name for his condition. We had something to Google, we learned what services to seek, and we entered the labyrinthine world of special needs funding. Although we were devastated, having the diagnosis did make us feel a little more empowered.

About two years later, I stumbled upon an Internet support group for parents of children with autism. This group was not designed to diagnose, or debate, or judge. It’s primary purpose was – indeed, is – to give parents a safe place to talk about the daily challenges of autism, to vent about whatever was bugging them, and to freely utter the phrase, “Autism is bullshit” without having someone jump down their throat.

This group has turned out to be an invaluable resource for me. I have made friends there. I have been able to give and receive advice. I have come to appreciate that in the autism world, there are children both better off and worse off than my son. I have been allowed to express hope and despair, I have been able to laugh and cry.

And I have been able to learn. Through the experiences of other people, I have been able to develop some strategies to help myself, my son and my family. I have come to have a better understanding of what role my younger (neurotypical) son can play in his brother’s life. I have realized that even the strongest of marriages can be strained by the presence of special needs, and I have learned some ways to deal with that. I have learned about how different things are in the United States vs. Canada where autism services are concerned.

I have learned about the difficulties some parents experience, first when it comes to getting a diagnosis for their children, and secondly, when it comes to getting and retaining services. And just this week, I have learned that all of this may be about to change under the new DSM-V diagnostic criteria. Whether it changes for the better or for the worse is an opinion still up for grabs.

Tomorrow: how will the autism diagnosis change, and what does it mean?


True Heroes: Guest Post by Kerry White

I go through phases where I spend a lot of time whining about how tough my life is. I’m working too much, I’m commuting for too long, I have too much to do when I get home, I get too little sleep. In the end, though, I’m always able to give my head a shake and reflect on the fact that I don’t have to do it alone. By the time I get home at the end of the work-day, the kids are home and fed. I have a husband who carries laundry baskets up and down the stairs so I don’t have to do it myself. I have someone to talk to at the end of the day, and when I go to bed at night, I have the physical and emotional warmth of another human being – one who may drive me nuts from time to time, but who I love and trust and wouldn’t want to trade for anyone in the world.

I have all the respect in the world for single parents, and often I wonder: how the hell does anyone do this alone? It’s hard enough to parent when there are two of you. Today’s post comes to us from one of those people I respect and admire so much. Kerry White is, like me, a transplanted South African. She lives in Texas, where she works as a freelance writer and raises her adorable little son. I am honoured to start of 2012 with this message of inspiration from a mom who helps us keep it all in perspective.

Thinking about what to write for this great and upbeat post was giving me a bit of a headache. I truly wanted to find that inner positive spirit I know I’ve got somewhere! I’ve been feeling so very Grinchy lately because it seems that the entire Universe has conspired against me to give me no end of grief in many areas. My son was sick with repeated rounds of ear infections, bronchitis, and a stomach virus, all in the span of 30 days. It was his 3rd birthday this month and I was so tired with a definite lack of funds in the bank so we sort of just didn’t do anything. I lost several high-value clients due to my need to put my son’s health and care first over their projects. I had someone steal my bank card information on the eve of Christmas Eve. Well, the list goes on and my own blog is filled with angst… but I am going to stop right here, right now.

This isn’t about being down and out. Because the truth is that, while things might be a bit of a challenge for me right now, I am still doing pretty okay considering everything else. My son’s health problems, while irritating and frustrating for us both, are fairly minor. My bank account will recover with a bit of hard work and a few nights of missed sleep for me. My son’s health issues do tend to clear up, with time and antibiotics.

Our house is warm, we have one another, and we have support from those who care about us. There’s even a special fella I’d love to make a much more prominent factor in our lives.

So often those supportive friends of mine tell me that I am a hero in their eyes, a supermom, and a super mom. However, I don’t feel it. I truly don’t. This led me to two other trains of thought.

There are parents who go through so much more with their darling children. Illnesses from which they will never recover, incredible and never-ending financial strife, endless trips to doctor’s offices, trips to the hospital from which their children may never return to their home, parents living in their cars or otherwise relying on the kindness of others to help them and their family. I have friends who were blessed to hold their babies in their arms, but for such a short amount of time before letting them go. I have friends who are parents without children in their arms yet.

Those are the true heroes, the super moms, the super dads, the superparents. They deserve the credit, they deserve the respect, they deserve the love, and the help. Truthfully, every parent needs to hear that they’re doing a pretty okay job at this parenting gig.

As parents, as people who care, we need to recognize in each other the greatness and the pure selflessness of loving parents. Sure things can be tough, rough, and overwhelming. But it seems to be the rare parent who doesn’t find things to be a challenge in one way or another. We need to support, encourage, and help one another realize that this is a big ole job and that it’s okay to not get everything perfect sometimes.

We’re going to feel like we’re at the end of our rope, we’re going to fall on the ground sobbing and begging whatever Powers That Be who may be listening to please friggen help us! But, with the support and help from our friends who may have been there, we can get through it! Maybe not with our sanity intact and our hair brushed, but get through it we will.

It takes a village, right? I think it goes a little bit further than that for parents; it takes a worldwide network of parental support to raise these kids we’ve been blessed with. 2012 is a great opportunity for us to start over, make resolutions to eat less, love more, and just be the support we need to be for others who are perhaps struggling just a little bit more than we are today.

I, for one, am counting my blessings now. I am counting my amazing friends and family members, including my amazing grandmother who is always there to answer the phone when I need support after a particularly challenging day. I wish for you nothing but strength, love, support, and the wisdom to know when you need to reach out to someone for support.

(Photo credit: Jorge Diaz1)