I've always felt that becoming a parent has made me a better person than I ever thought I could be - or than I ever wanted to be. When I consider how deep and how strong the wellspring of parental energy and emotion runs, it's a little overwhelming. And I know it's the doing of these marvelous creatures who made me a parent.

Dear Columbus Parents, I've always felt that becoming a parent has made me a better person than I ever thought I could be - or than I ever wanted to be. When I consider how deep and how strong the wellspring of parental energy and emotion runs, it's a little overwhelming. And I know it's the doing of these marvelous creatures who made me a parent. When I meet the parents of children with special needs, I'm even more overwhelmed with awe. We're talking a magnitude of energy, emotion and just plain strength that trumps any sleepless night I've ever spent worrying about my kids. Any bathroom (or path to the bathroom) I've cleaned up thanks to a stomach flu. Any hoops I've had to jump through in order to get the housekeeping staff at a hotel 473 miles from home to look for a small stuffed elephant that got left behind. These are what I call my "mother-love" stories, the ones I'm going to relish reminding my kids of ad infinitum. But these other parents I meet, and especially the ones I met working on our annual special-needs-focused issue, have mother- and father-love stories that are punctuated with Code Blues in neonatal intensive care units, by encounters with rude strangers in supermarkets who think they have a right to know their family history, with mountains of bills and health-insurance paperwork, with calendars and datebooks more jam-packed with entries than the log book in an air-traffic control tower. And they glow with pride and love as they explain how they navigate these challenges. I wonder if they ever thought they'd be capable of doing what they do now and of becoming the people they are now. Did they ever imagine that someday they would know and understand more about chromosomes than their 10th grade biology teacher? That they'd know and understand more about education law than any member of their district's school board? That they'd be better at securing a tracheotomy tube than their family doctor? Probably not. Not everyone rises to the challenge that parenthood offers us, but I'd like to believe that most of us do. And I hope that the parents of children with special needs know that, in addition to letting their children transform them into better people, they have also become profoundly inspiring heroes to the rest of us parents. Jane Hawes Columbus Parent Editor