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

Saturday, 21 March 2015

An open thank you

Dear other parents,

Thank you to the deputy manager at our local Aldi. You saw me while I was shopping late the other night. You know I usually do my shopping during the day. You know I'm NEVER out without my girls. All you said was 'Wow, you managed to get some alone time tonight'. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for your recognition.

Thank you to the leader in my school's parent group. You knew there was a talk on puberty coming up. I approached you to let you know that our path through puberty was going to be a bit different to other parents. You told me that you'd already let the guest speaker know that they needed to cover puberty and disability. Thank you for not only making me feel included, but for making sure I got the best information to help Imogen.

Thank you to the mum of one of Imogen's friends. Your offer to look after Adele while I go to swimming lessons with Imogen has made it so much easier to observe her interactions and learning, without being a distraction to her. You saw that I was having a rotten day this week and you made dinner for my family. Thank you for reminding me that I have the most amazing friends.

Thank you to the admin lady at the local community kindergarten. I came in to put Adele on the wait list for next year and you remembered that Imogen had been there back in 2010. Thank you for letting me know that she has had an impact in making our small part of the world a better place.

Thank you to the mum who stopped me as I walked home to tell me that every time she sees me, she is glad that she doesn't have to walk in my shoes; that she feels grateful that her children are well and healthy. Thank you for acknowledging that some days are quite tough for us. Thank you for acknowledging that we put a lot of effort into giving Imogen the best opportunities possible.

Thank you to my neighbour, who comes over like a grandmother and gives all our girls little gifts. You fill their lives with extra love. You treat them all the same and remind them about being good sisters. Thank you for making our adding some normality to our life.

Thank you to the lovely friend I've made through our Facebook page and blog. When you ask me questions that I'm able to answer I am so happy that I can help. I'm reminded of the steep learning curve we have had and how alone we felt at times. I'm glad that I'm able to make it a little easier for someone else. Thank you for making me feel useful and reassuring me that I've learnt so much already.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day.

Today is going to be a good day.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Life is better BECAUSE of her...

I've been a teacher for longer than I've been a mother. I'm sure it's because of this that I had certain views about how I was going to raise my children and 'help' them with their learning. I was a high achiever at school but struggled socially. I wanted my children to be able to succeed in all areas of school (well, maybe not PE, there are no strong sporting genes on either side of our families!).

So when Imogen was born and we realised that she would need extra, we lept in and gave her that extra. From 2 weeks of age we were learning how much extra that was going to be. It paid off though. Imogen met all her milestones on par with her peers and is still achieving in most areas on par.

It did however make me reconsider how much I was going to push my kids to learn. I was always told as a child that my brother and I could read, write, add, subtract, multiply and divide all before we went to school. Apparently we went through pasta as counters at a rate of knots. I knew that placing this expectation on my own children was not going to work. It no longer sat well with my parenting ideals.

So for Stella I knew I wasn't going to push her to read or write. The same is certainly the same for our youngest, Adele. The funniest thing has occured though. Stella is now completing maths well beyond her age group. Adele is reading better than kids 12-18 months older than her. The reason why?

We put so much effort into Imogen that she is the one who values reading and writing. She has a wonderful work ethic, a thirst for knowledge. She is often teaching her younger sisters. Imogen has certainly taught me, to be a better mother and a better teacher.  We have all been taught to be grateful for the little things, each small achievement. Going slow in Holland can be a very rewarding thing.

Our two youngest girls are exceeding BECAUSE of Imogen. As parents we are driven to be better BECAUSE of Imogen. As teachers we are more compassionate BECAUSE of Imogen.

How dull would our life have been without her?

Sunday, 1 March 2015

To be a better parent...

At a recent meeting for parents at our girls' school, we were asked to discuss 'one thing you have done to be a better parent'. Many parents in our circle couldn't put their finger on one thing. Parenting is a continual reflective practice. There was lots of talk about checking the way we talk to our children, creating a strong family unit and respecting the child's need for independence.

As soon as the question was asked, I was mentally listing all the things I have felt I've had to do in order to be a better parent for Imogen.

She was my first. I knew nothing of being a parent before her. I knew nothing of disability. She taught me everything.

At just two weeks of age she was attending early intervention. I learnt had to do pediatric physio to be a better parent. At 3 months old I organised for a baby sign class to come to our regional town so that I could teach my baby to express herself. From the time she was starting solids I was learning about speech therapy. When she was learning to walk I was researching assistive therapies.

Before Imogen turned two I was realising that I was going to have to do more, if I wanted to be the parent she needed me to be. I enrolled in a Masters degree. She was my motivation and my reward. I learnt more in the first 4 units of my masters than in the 4 years of my undergraduate. Through 2 more pregnancies, two different jobs and atrocious morning (all day) sickness I worked hard, and the efforts more than paid off.

I've was feeling that tug again over the summer holidays, the pull to study again. As Imogen gets older the challenges she faces change. If I want the world to be a better place for her, then I need to make a contribution to that change. Living our mindful, low carbon footprint life just doesn't seem to be enough. It's attitudes and ignorance I need to change.

I spent weeks deliberating what I would go back and study. Guidance and Counseling? Social Work?

Eventually my Bear said 'You've always wanted to do it, just start a PhD.'

The things we do to be a better parent.