Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gratitude First

I'll bet you know that people can be assholes. I'll bet you've experienced it at least once in your life.  Maybe even twice.

Sometimes, I've met them in person.

"Are they all yours?  Well, better you than me." they say.  Not like I have a beautiful family and am so lucky, but more like I have a visible case of herpes.

Thanks, Rude Stranger!

I should start handing out cards to them.  They'll say things like: They're all mine. I know what caused it. I still do that. I love them. I'm not sorry they're all here. No I'm not having more, stranger I've never met before. And yes, I delivered all but one of them vaginally.  Would you also like to see my scar?

Seriously, the things people think are their business are mind boggling.

But I've found another area where people are assholes: When you have kids who are disabled.

People on the street will stop and ask you "what's wrong" with your child. People will stop and stare if your child is acting unusually in public. People might try to guess diagnoses. And they talk about some diagnoses as if they're shameful. People will ask you what therapies you're using. And did you know that their sisters-best-friends-cousin totally used this special diet and CURED their child's Autism?  Yeah, you should try that.

Well, thank you, again, rude stranger on the street, for explaining to me how I should be treating my child's Autism, something I don't treat like a disease.  I sure do appreciate how you know so much when you have zero personal experience at all.

I have a friend whose son has a rare form of Dwarfism.  And get this, people will stop and take his picture on the street. I want anyone reading this to imagine being out with their child, and someone stops to take their picture without so much as introducing themselves. Imagine having to struggle every day between the desire to protect your child from unwanted attention, and the desire to give him a normal life and teach him how to cope with the fact that there are assholes, just walking the streets like normal people.

But here's the thing, Rude Stranger, We have a ton of gratitude that you have missed entirely.

Here's what I wish the really Rude Stranger could understand:

We're grateful for the people who care about us, and our kids, both with special and typical needs.

It's not "too bad" our kids are disabled. We know, having lived in this community, how many people wake up every morning with aching arms and hollow hearts. We're grateful that our children are breathing this morning. Everything else, is gravy.

There's nothing "wrong" with them. They may have different things that they will struggle with as they grow up, but we have learned that they are their own kind of perfect. And we are happy for every little thing they do, even if it seems simple by your standards.

We may struggle sometimes. We may at some point cry for the children we didn't have, and the experiences we won't get with them. But at the same time, we became mothers we didn't know we could be, and have incredible children for whom we are grateful each and every day. Even if sometimes, by the end of those days we are tired in a way that would make a first-time mom with a newborn feel downright well-rested.

You don't need to feel sorry for us, or for our kids, who often find more joy in something simple, than we can in our whole day.  No, no pity needed at all.

What we could use though, is to hear that you see the beauty in our kids. That you love their sweet smiles as much as we do. That you appreciate their gestures of friendship and affection.

We could use cheerleaders who get excited with us for new milestones reached.

And most of all, we could really use you remembering that these are our babies.  Because, Rude Stranger, when you say something thoughtless, or even downright unkind, our children might not notice at all.  But we do, and we ache.

We also want to punch you in the throat.

I'm grateful for all the amazing things my kids did today, even if it was a rough morning. And I'm grateful that I'm surrounded by thoughtful caring people, and not assholes. And that the Rude Stranger is not an everyday occurrence.

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  1. Anne, I enjoyed reading this. I have always disliked the Rude Stranger when crossing his path and the strange thing is that it was BEFORE I had a special needs child. I've witnessed people be rude and make nasty comments regarding other children that did not look or act like other people's children. I got sick to my stomach. Well now that I was blessed with the privilege to be my daughter's mother, I not only get sick to my stomach when I see Rude Stranger on the street, now I confront him! It takes a lot of guts and courage to actually stand up to a stranger for fear of being hit in the face or attacked, but the way I see it, I hope they do because my daughter, and all the other children in the world like her, are worth it!

    1. Good for you, Sharlotte! I often find myself flummoxed and searching for how to educate the Rude Stranger. What I'd really like to tell them is that they should learn some manners!


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