A perspective on the world of disability from a mother and an educator. Follow my blog!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Life is sweet!

The LesliesDessert dinner party. House over flowing. Acknowledge bad parenting- comparisons made. Bad parenting for a child with a disability- forgetting meds, missing appointments, not doing extra intervention, not able to do extra curricula, too tired for play datesAnyone who knows me that there are three loves in my life. Family, teaching and BAKING! I adore food, but not so much the eating, it’s the sharing time and space with other people. It’s giving a little of yourself to bring joy to others. I grew up in a house where food played a central role and it was about coming together to talk and share stories. Cooking for others in times of illness or stress is something I’ve not just taken part in, but gratefully received.

There is nothing quite like a house full of people, adults and kids, and the sound of laughter filling every space available. I was blessed on Friday night to be able to fill my house to the brim with people who are very dear to me and people I love to cook for. We decided on a theme for the night, which reflected the parental sentiment felt by many at this time of year. We’re all feeling the guilt of being too busy to provide all the things our children need, so we embraced this feeling and went with a dessert dinner party – where all the dishes served were desserts. No meat, no veggies, no salad. The kids thought all their Christmases had come at once and as parents we didn’t have to feel quite so guilty about not preparing a healthy square meal for just one night.

At one point in the evening my beloved eldest comes out after raiding the dress-up box, dressed as 'Dr Bunny' ready to heal our ailments as apparently we were all 'sick'. Must have been an epidemic of high blood sugar levels after all that dessert for dinner! Dr Bunny was kitted out with authentic equipment: blue hair net, rubber gloves and a strawberry scented anaesthetic mask. When I made the comment about how each time Dr Bunny had to have surgery (all minor) she was bold enough to ask for her souvenirs for her doctors dress-up kit, the room fell silent. Everyone was mulling over the thought of how many surgeries that would require (not as many as others I know, so we feel very fortunate). There was that moment of feeling a little bit different as a parent; that reminder that our experience hadn’t been the same as everyone else in the room.

That guilty feeling that often pervades your parental consciousness is seen through different lenses when you are a parent of a child with a disability. Bad parenting for a child with a disability means: forgetting medications, missing specialist appointments, not doing extra intervention, not being able to do extra-curricula activities after school or on weekends, feeling too tired for play dates, robbing your child of their childhood with too much intervention… the list goes on. As I looked around the room it occurred to me that everyone there had a unique concern for their child, which wouldn't be considered above and beyond normal parenting, but showed that as parents we all want the best outcomes for our children. Our concerns for our child are not above and beyond those of the other parents in that room, nor are their concerns for their child any less valid than ours.

There is a commonality of experience. Parental guilt comes from wanting to give our children better than we had, the best part of ourselves; setting the benchmark high and falling just short. Life gets in the way of who we want to be.  We are surrounded by people walking the parenting path with us and when our path is rocky we lean on them and offer our shoulder to others when our path is smooth. We don’t judge as we all have our bag of crazy we packed for the journey. It’s about building each other up, not tearing others down to selfishly get on top.

Wanting to do better is the first step, whether it's parenting, teaching or disability advocacy; taking that guilt and using it to our advantage. Not being owned or controlled by it but actually finding a sense of peace in owning it. My peace comes in knowing I have such amazing people in my life. These holidays will be filled with the joy of sharing our lives (and baking!) with friends, both new and old.

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