Child hands folded for prayer on wood table

Everything Does NOT Happen for a Reason

I’ve heard all the platitudes since becoming the mom of a child with special needs. Whether it’s “God never gives you more than you can handle,” or “God only gives special kids to special parents,” or my personal favorite, “Everything happens for a reason.” Well, I’m here to tell you that they all suck.

I totally get that people are just trying to say something comforting, and the good angel on one shoulder wants me to keep smiling politely and say, “Thank you” like a good girl to keep the peace. But that smart-mouthed devil on the other shoulder (the one who actually isn’t afraid to speak her mind)–she’s ready to call bullshit on your supposedly comforting statements.

The comfort given is supposed to comfort the person receiving it. When you tell me that my son’s disabilities happened for a reason, you are basically telling me that I needed to learn some life lesson from the Universe (or God or whomever decided this so-called reason) and that the only way to teach it to me is to give my child a life-long hardship. Well, gee, thanks, because now I feel even shittier about myself.

“Oh, but Lynne…can’t you look back and see how having your son has changed your life for the better?”

That’s the typical argument–someone ultimately points out how a fight with a spouse led to being late for a bus that crashed, or how a terrible accident led someone to find their life’s purpose, or how a child with special needs made me a better person. But I still respectfully disagree. Things happen by chance or by choice.

How do you know the changes you made in your life would not have happened anyway for another reason? There are always choices and catalysts for our decisions. We have no idea what would have been and if that reality would be better or worse than the one we live.

No, it’s our perception of the events that leads to the changes we make. I can see where unexpected circumstances led me down different paths, but it’s the decisions I made and how I reacted to what happened that made me who I am. Believe me, I could have reacted much differently, and many people do.

I have trouble believing in a world where getting hit by a car or having a disabled child was “meant to be.” A higher power that thinks the only way to get through to us is by making someone else suffer would have to be one spiteful mofo, and I just don’t think that’s true.

But I do believe in a world where your circumstances don’t define you or me. They might force us to make tough choices and blaze a new trail than the path we thought we would take, but we are still in control of those choices because life is a choose-your-own-adventure book, not a how-to manual.

This post originally appeared on Be Like a Mother. It has been reprinted with permission.

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