Sons with special needs present unique challenges for mothers who seek both to nurture their sons and provide opportunity for them to care for and nurture others. Special needs include medical, physical, cognitive, mental, and/or emotional conditions requiring additional and often outside care to assist with activities of daily living, and-for adopted children-special needs can also mean children who differ racially, culturally, or ethnically from the adoptive family. Each special need places added demands upon all family members, demands which can generate stress and lead to unresolved feelings of inadequacy, resentment, and guilt if not acknowledged and addressed. When the culture itself encourages mothers to be primary caregivers while encouraging sons to be recipients rather than givers of care, the task of mothering special needs sons can seem quite daunting. Add to this mix a commitment to feminist parenting for justice and peace in a society oriented toward competitiveness, militarism, and patriarchy, and one has the makings for chaos within the family. Such was the challenge faced within our family when my husband Dan and I, having birthed one son, decided to adopt four special needs children, three of them sons.
This chapter draws upon literature on parenting, special needs adoption, disability, dysfunctional families, feminist values and theory, the