Originally published February 2016
In case you didn’t remember, love hurts. Hard.
Especially, when you are a parent.
I’d never suggest there’s a special place in the hereafter for parents of children with special needs. To parent is to parent, regardless of circumstance, and for kids that present a different set of circumstances, it really just is perspective. A child that is devastated he or she didn’t get into their first choice for college is just as in need of consolation as the child that can’t tolerate pulp in his or her orange juice and is having a meltdown in the middle of a Cracker Barrel.
For me, that’s part of the message in Chicago area author Jim Kokoris” latest, “It’s. Nice. Outside.” For while on the surface and to its core the book delves into the special bond a family has for Ethan, a young adult son with special needs severe enough to require a lifetime of supervised care, it is also about fathers and daughters and husbands and wives and consolation of heartbreak and reconciliation to commitment, both those marital and by blood.
John Nichols is a man on a mission—driving cross-country to an East Coast date to walk his oldest daughter Karen down the aisle. Along for the ride and a different destination is Ethan, whom John intends to place in a adult home for residents with special needs. The only stumbling block will be breaking the news to his ex-wife Mary, Karen, and daughter Mindy, a rising comedic star and Karen’s competitive nemesis.
As mentioned above, parenting is all about perspective and yes, I would never suggest raising a child with special needs is any emotionally harder than parenting an average, bright or gifted kid.
The novel hits close to home for me, parenting kids that cross the spectrum of abilities. And while my “Ethan” is so much more capable than Kokoris’ literary son, I can certainly relate to the physical and emotional toll this kind of parenting takes not just on a person, but a marriage and family. It’s a lifetime of hoping and hoping for progression that eventually transitions to praying for acceptance, which is impossible because hope springs eternal. There’s always hope, which means there is almost always disappointment. And always another battle from which to pick yourself up and keep going.
A parent’s love knows no bounds, but physical and emotional capacity to cope can be stretched to the limit. And in the moment some parents have to make the determination to acknowledge those limits, the guilt and sorrow and overwhelming love for your child is soul crushing. In a nutshell, I cried ugly at the end of this book.
Kokoris does an amazing job putting parental love to paper and weaves a great story not just about being a good parent, but being a good person, with exceptional warmth and humor. It’s a wonderful read and easy to digest in even just a day or two.