As a totally blind person who is a parent of three, an unpaid foster parent of children who regard my wife and me as their parents, a grandfather, and a host parent of almost a dozen foreign exchange students, it is difficult to put into a few short sentences what being a parent means to me.
As a person with a disability, it enables me, both with respect to my children and the broader world in which all of us live, to lead by example. It is one more way of demonstrating how persons with disabilities can successfully, for the most part, take on all of the challenges that our non-disabled counterparts do not believe we can handle. I also believe that people with disabilities may take their parenting roles slightly more seriously than their non-disabled peers, if for no other reason than we know how society will judge our failures in the parenting realm far more severely than other parents.
However, what parenting means more than anything else; to me at least, has nothing to do with my being a person with a disability. There is nothing more enriching than having a family. Your children, including those with whom you have had limited contact, such as through the act of being a foreign exchange host, are both the greatest gifts that you can receive and your legacy. At the holiday table or just a summer barbecue, I relish in the knowledge that my children and grandchildren are around me. I am definitely not the “world’s greatest dad”, but I do have a t-shirt that says I am. As I near my 65th birthday, I recognize that it will be my children and grandchildren who will make my latter days either enjoyable or lonely, and if I have done a good job with them, they will tend toward the former, not the latter. Nobody will remember you with greater clarity, for good or ill, than your progeny. Moreover, if you have laid the proper groundwork in bringing up your children, you will have had an impact on the world that will live long after you have gone.
Yes, parenting does have some special significance for those of us with disabilities, but its greatest significance is the same for all of humanity.