As a parent with a disability, I firmly believe in teachable moments, learning experiences, and the like. The parenting experience has definitely been one of self-awareness, joy, tears, and yes, even pain. It is impossible for my son to pretend I fit into the societal expectations of what a mom should be because the cards dealt me a different hand. I mother on wheels and I wouldn’t change it.
I will be honest and say that the wheels don’t make it harder -or easier- to parent. Being a parent is hard either way, I place a lot of unrealistic expectations on myself, regardless of my disability. I’m a chronic overachiever and parenting my son has been a very humbling series of teachable moments.
We had one of those moments a few days ago when my son saw a video on his tablet regarding an incident during the 2016 presidential campaign. My son said, “Mommy, did you know that this particular event triggered people with disabilities?” I replied, “Son, do you know what else triggers a person with a disability? When a person who isn’t disabled tries to tell us what ‘triggers us.’”
He quickly apologized, but my partner (my son’s dad) said he doesn’t see you in that way. I am sure he meant no offense, but I felt his comment was ableist, and it did in fact, trigger me. Keep in mind, this was a teachable moment for all of us. For my son, he is learning that he can stand up for a social group without imposing his opinion. For my partner, it was a reminder that our son is quite aware that his mom has a disability, and that he sees it as part of his day-to-day life. The chair is an extension of who his mother is, and by gum, the world better make room for it! I love his sense of empathy and compassion, and I know that as a father, my partner feels the same way about our son’s heart.
For me, the moment was an exercise in patience. I have to remind myself that everyone has a unique perspective on the topic of having a disability. The munchkin’s disability isn’t obvious, but I hope I’m teaching him to take a stand for what is right. That a person can make your point without making others feel inferior. It is my goal as a parent to help him keep his compassion and empathy; that it is perfectly fine to get angry about an injustice as long as we actively participate in changing it.
I’m sure we will have many learning experiences in this journey as parent and child. It is important for me to take in every aspect of these moments. Parenting my child is an amazing experience; one that I don’t take lightly. He is my legacy, my heart, and the best teacher. Yes, his life is one beautiful moment.