In Doreen Valiente's version of the Charge of the Goddess, she says:
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. Therefore, let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
Just about all parents do things out of love for their children (even most really bad parents will tell you that they love their kids); we find joy in their smiles and their delight in the world is contagious. I'd like to think that most of us with special needs children have a little insight here though: we understand just how hard won some of those accomplishments are, no matter how big or how small.
What about that second bit though? That's an interesting list of virtues, and I've always found it interesting that they come in pairs. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to explore how they apply to Pagan parents with special needs kids.
First up is Beauty and Strength.
Whether or not we admit it, most of us special needs parents know Strength. It's strength that gets us through the hard days, that keeps us looking for the right mix of treatments and therapies for our kids, that gives us the power to argue with doctors, insurance companies, school districts, and more to get our children what they need.
It's strength that lets us keep going, day in and day out, strength that holds us together in the ER or the ICU, strength that helps us hide the tears (both joyful and sorrowful) when things catch us by surprise.
It's common for us to feel weak, because we aren't in control - but strength isn't about controlling the situation, it's about forging a path through the mess to get what we want.
And Beauty? I suspect most people think of beauty as hair and makeup and a stunning outfit over a perfect body - a culturally specific notion of all that, no less, that depends on your location and ethnicity and a million other things.
But I don't think that's the kind of beauty we're called to here. This is the beauty of the soul, the beauty of a sleeping baby, the beauty of the smile on a child's face when they finally do exactly what they were wanting to do.
We're called to seek the beauty in the world around us, whether or not everyone else thinks it's perfect. My mom used to have a magnet with a pouting little boy, head and hands on a table that said, "I know I'm somebody, 'cause God don't make no junk!" - and no matter what God or Goddess or combination of Gods you worship, that's still as true now as it was decades ago when I first read that message.
All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals. Hug your kids. Do something to make them laugh. Take care of yourself too - take a long walk in the woods, soak in a bubble bath, sip a glass of wine - and remember that you and your child are beautiful, and you are Goddess.