Big Girl Panties and Superhero Capes for Parents of Children with Special Needs

I never fail to giggle when I hear someone say, “Well, it’s time to put on the big girl panties!” whenever life throws a curve ball and they have suddenly found themselves having to wade through uncharted territory, channeling inner strengths they might never have otherwise known they possessed. I have come to the conclusion that if you are a parent of a special needs child, those “big girl panties” that seem to work for everyone else just don’t have enough support. That being the case, I feel that there is a very urgent need for someone to create Spanx™ for the special needs parent’s soul. No more emotional muffin top! Think of the possibilities!

Elastigirl in full-body SpanxMy 4 year old son is diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, food allergies, seizures, and Sensory Processing disorder. His twin is diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. My 13 year old daughter is diagnosed with nephrocalcinosis. My 16 year old son is showing flags… flags for mental illness. I am beginning the process of working with his doctor to rule out any medical causes for these symptoms, and then hope to be able to get a referral for mental help. Break out the super hero cape and Spanx™ ! Oh.. wait. They’re in the laundry. The laundry that I didn’t get a chance to wash, which is beginning to smell like sweaty feet.

Parents have huge amounts of responsibility and stress and discouragement.  I think that we place the bar for ourselves so extremely high, that we have no alternative but to miss the mark and hit the mat. And then, the self flagellation begins.There are times of despair. Times when all you can do is hang your head and cry ,when you’re just so tired physically, emotionally, mentally, that it’s all you have left. And yet, you keep going. You keep going because your babies need you to be their advocate, source of comfort and safety,  provider of (mostly) balanced meals,  nurse,  pharmacist, chauffeur, maid, laundress, and whatever else is necessary at any given time. And you have faith that somehow, some day, if you’re really really good and eat all your vegetables, you will be allowed to take a shower every single day, without having to bolt from the bathtub, dripping wet and with shampoo still in your hair, clutching a far too small towel around the important parts of your body so you can take care of the crisis du jour.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you really could just wiggle and jiggle and curse your way into a pair of emotionally supportive Spanx™, throw that sparkly cape around your shoulders, and fly around, conquering your world? Wish that we could. But we can’t. So, we find viable alternatives for ourselves, like family members, online support groups, real life support groups, medical,mental, and therapy providers. People who can console us with their knowledge and expertise, who soothe us with their ability.

I am at this point. I am ready for my cape. I’d like to conquer the demons in my world. At the very least, I’d really like to get rid of this eye twitch I’ve had for three days, which is beginning to scare the children and making me look like I need large doses of some sort of medication. But I have learned a valuable lesson this week. I don’t need emotional Spanx™. I don’t need the sparkly cape. I don’t need to fly around. I just need to know that it’s not a sign of inferiority when I don’t know what to do. It’s not a sign of bad parenting to admit that I’ve hit the wall. I’m not a failure when I seek outside help if I can’t find an answer. It’s not a bad thing to call a friend who understands, and through that understanding allows me to have some stress relief.

This is my Spanx™ for the soul. The writing. The act of being able to put it all down on paper, which lets me look at everything I’m obsessing about, and tackle it, one thing at a time. This is my mantra: one breath, one step, one day at a time. That’s all I have to get through. Just one breath, one step, one day at a time. And you know what? When it’s broken down into little pieces like that? That big muffin top of anxiety starts to dissipate. I can focus. I can take on the challenges. I can step back and regroup, and have faith in myself again. And that makes all the difference.


Spanx™ is a trademark of Spanx, Inc., a privately owned company.

Elastigirl Photo © Disney / Pixar

Caryn Haluska
Caryn Haluska is the mother of 7 unique, cuddly monsters, lives in Southern Utah and is addicted to researching information and resources for special needs. Her son Logan is diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, unexplained seizures, and extreme food allergies leading to anaphylactic shock. He is on a very restrictive allergy induced diet (dairy, soy, corn, nut). His twin, #6, also has Sensory Processing Disorder. You can read more on her blog, Living With Logan, follow her on Facebook or Twitter. You may also send her an email.
Caryn Haluska
Caryn Haluska

5 Responses to Big Girl Panties and Superhero Capes for Parents of Children with Special Needs

  1. Wow Caryn. What a beautifully written post and oh how I have yearned for those emotional spans some days…you are amazing and this was so timely for me. Thank you for sharing it. And great big hugs to you.

  2. I am shocked, awed, amazed, flabbergasted, mind boggled (But NOT speechless,apparently!) at the response this piece has gotten. Thank you, thank you, a thousand times over, for all the words of encouragement, the fb shares, and the support. Hey…. waitaminute…. y’all are being my… emotional spanx?! Now seriously. How cool is THAT! 😉

  3. Thank you so much for this article! Today was a day when I needed those Spanx! My son had a stroke at birth and four months ago had to have a functional hemispherectomy to stop his uncontrolled seizures. On top of that, we have 1 year old twins. One of those babies was born deaf and had his first cochlear implant surgery just a little over a week ago. I feel like I’m stretch thin and if I spend too much time with one child the other will suffer from neglect and that everything can and should be controlled by me and if it all falls apart (which it usually does by around 3pm) it’s all my fault. I just need to breathe and take one day at a time, because that’s all I can do :o)

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