The clock said 2:30. I took a sip of tea and did my best to enjoy the remaining moments of calm before the kids started coming home from school.

Then the phone rang.

A sweet, young voice was on the other end. It was a psychologist from our daughter Lizzy’s school. Usually I panic whenever one of the kids’ schools call.

This time I didn’t ask if all was well with Lizzy. I just said, “You’re calling about the parent intake form. I haven’t sent it in yet, and it’s overdue. Yes?

I tried to be light in my tone and hoped I would manage to charm her with a joke or two about how much I hate these forms. This has been my M.O. the past 12 years of dealing with various forms like these, and it was my plan to do that now.

I apologized for being two days late. I then told her just how painful it is to answer the same questions every year. I thought I was doing a good job of being the cool and funny special needs mom I fashion myself to be. Then the young voice said something that made my carefully created facade crack.

“I understand how hard it can be Mrs. Radigan.”

All lightness from my voice left me when I asked her, “Do you have a child with special needs?”

She stammered a bit and then said, “No, I do not.”

Before I could even stop myself, I said, “Then you can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be asked to fill out this form every year.”

A part of me regretted what I said. I understood she was only doing her job, and her job couldn’t be easy.

She apologized and explained that although she doesn’t know what it’s like, she’s worked with many families. Then she went on to tell me the importance of the form.

“I know all about the importance of the form. I’ll have it to you by Monday, I’m sorry I was late. Thank you for your call.” This was said in my “all business” voice. Then I hung up the phone.

That’s one person who won’t be singing my praises anytime soon.

I could imagine the young woman reporting the conversation back to Lizzy’s teacher who I figured might say something like, “that doesn’t sound like Kathy.” At least that’s what I hoped she would say.

Tears I had no time for started to fall freely. I gave myself two minutes and then made myself stop. I knew my nine-year-old’s bus would be here soon. I found the form in a box I use for all the things I don’t want to face and set it out on the table so I could fill it out once he got home.

The first question dared me to look at it:

What special strengths, interests, and preferences does your child have?

For parents of children who don’t have the significant issues Lizzy has, this might be easy to answer. For me, it’s impossible.

Lizzy has extensive brain damage but none of the many specialists we’ve seen throughout the years has been able to tell us exactly what it means or how it came to be. We just know it causes my sweet girl so many problems. She also deals with mental illness. Whether this is part of the brain damage or a separate condition is something else we’ll probably never know for sure.

The way I sometimes describe Lizzy’s condition is to compare her to an amazing, high tech computer that has all the bells and whistles you could want. But each time you turn it on, you get another result. Some days it never turns on. Other days it turns on but gives you information that makes no sense. Then there are the days it may work perfectly for an hour or two and shows you just what an amazing machine it is, only to stop working again.

Even this description doesn’t accurately describe all the wonderful things that make up a girl who can light up a room and make the grumpiest person smile.

My daughter’s illness defies explanation and because it does, it makes it so difficult to predict what she’ll be like when she is 21. That is nine years away. Heck, I don’t know what she’ll be like in two minutes. As it stands now, I assume she’ll always need full time care

I work at finishing the form, crying sometimes, getting frustrated at others until I get to one of the last questions:

In which career(s) or specific job(s) has your child expressed an interest?

I write down the same answer I did last year:

Lizzy would like to be a princess. We’re aware that there are limited positions available at this time, but we believe if anyone can pull it off Lizzy can.

Of all the things I had to write down on this form, this is the one statement I truly believe.

(This post originally ran on My Dishwasher’s Possessed.)

About the author: Kathy Radigan is a writer, blogger, social media addict, mom to three, wife to one and owner of a possessed appliance. She posts a weekly essay each Sunday on her blog, My dishwasher’s possessed! Kathy is the author of the viral post An Open Letter to My Teenage Son About Drinking and is a Huffington Post Blogger and a contributor to What the Flicka. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google +.


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  1. Thanks for sharing this post!
    It gave me that ~I’m not the only One!~ feeling.

  2. Kathy, I too have a box for all the things I don’t want to face. Somedays it’s not big enough. Love this, and wish you all the best with Princess applications 😉

  3. I have to say I cannot even imagine the strength and patience it takes to deal with the trials and tribulations, highs and lows, happiness and tears to do all the things you do. I seriously teared up with the Princess comment and it warmed my heart and showed me what an amazing mom you are. Love and fairy dust to your sweet Princess, I know she is going to make a fine one someday!! <3

  4. Pamela Corbett Reply

    I read this to my husband, before I got to the end he asked me if I wrote it. Need I say more? The only difference being my darling daughter is now thirteen, and she abhorrs princesses now she’s a teen. The only way she would say princess, is if she could portray one in a play. If asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she would reply, an actress on Broadway. And she just might.

    • Pamela I don’t even know what to say except thank you for letting me know I’n mot alone. And at least there is a slightly better employment rate for Broadway actresses! Lol! 🙂

    • The stack of guilt reading, ah yes, how can I forget that!!! Lol! That is brilliant Tara! I do believe we may need to work on a dictionary for special needs moms!! Lol! xoxo

  5. Sharing the intricacies of your life are very important to helping the world understand what you’re living with; I really want to thank you for writing this excellent piece. To live so unpredictably must be exhausting–yet you still find the energy to feel love, even appreciation, for the individual Lizzy is. I have such respect for your whole family.

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