Growing up with a disabled mother
Posted by mandyf on March 7, 2013
Growing up with a disabled mother is only an issue if one of two conditions applies to it which are that they make an issue of it, or the child makes an issue of it. If neither of those applies then having a disabled parent is not that unlike having a regularly abled parent. Sure there are people that point out a disabled parent has things that perhaps they cannot do, but they rarely look to things that they can do which is far more important.
Having grown up with a disabled mother I never had the opportunity to dwell on it, that was just the way things were and I accepted that. There may have been times for instance that she couldn’t get in the pool, but that didn’t stop her from being at the pool. Maybe she couldn’t get up and teach me how to dance when all the kids were eager to learn because we all wanted to mimic the moves of our favorite character from Grease, but she could be there and tell me what to do and show me as best she could. There were times she couldn’t even get out of bed because the energy just wasn’t there, but that didn’t stop her from still spending time with me whether that meant I crawled into bed alongside her to watch television, read to her, knit an afghan with her, or just talk. Physical activities she may not have always been able to give me, but time was always available and in retrospect far more valuable.
A mother that is physically or emotionally challenged is in some ways a blessing to have. There are certain things they may not be able to do, but what they can, they give in abundance. They set an early example that we are not defined by our limitations, and the only limitations we have are the ones we accept. I learned very quickly that being a good parent did not hinge on being able to do all the little things that a perceived “normal” parent could do, but rather doing everything that could be done. There is no diagnosed impediment to giving love, support, or friendship after-all.
They say people can be cruel to the disabled, not they always mean to, but sometimes glances that linger too long, comments that weren’t meant to be heard, or any number of subtle things can cut like a knife. Growing up with a disabled mother I witnessed this first hand. What I also witnessed was the appropriate way to deal with such things which is a lesson that carried over to many areas of life. When someone was rude to her, she made them aware that their words or actions hurt, but she refused to allow that hurt to linger. If they didn’t care that they had hurt her she gave them her pity for knowing and still not caring. When someone did not understand her condition she took the time to explain it so that they next time they found them self in a similar situation they would know how to react and know that although there may be some visible differences, the unseen portions were just the same as anyone else.
Growing up with a disabled mother also goes a long way to teaching a child about self reliance, maturity, and in a way the realities of life. A child that sees a disabled parent that constantly does their best to care for them self and their family without regard to how the outside world may view them provides a child with a role model that there is no such thing as disabled really, but rather those that are differently abled. Anyone that has spent sufficient time with such people are often amazed at how many ways these people find to carry out tasks that most would expect impossible for them to do. Living with a disabled parent aids in maturing a child as it is quickly learned there is a right and wrong way to do things and to act towards others. It is quickly understood that there is a time for play and a time to be serious and to not mix the the two. Finally although some see it is a negative, learning the realities of life is not a negative thing for a child. Not everything comes wrapped in neat little perfect boxes with bows and ribbons. That does not however mean that those things do not hold great beauty inside. A child learns life is not always easy, but that it is worth living and it is what you make of it.
I used to spend time wondering if life would have been better growing up with a mother that didn’t face the challenges she did, I think all children in that position do from time to time. I wonder if my own daughter thinks that of me since as fate would have it I became a disabled mother too. I wonder if she is missing out on something that I otherwise could have provided for her had I been more able. Those thoughts though are quickly dismissed and the main reason is because I have an example to look back to, my own mother. While I certainly would have wished better health for her, I saw that she never allowed her challenges to stop her from doing everything she was capable of. I in turn use her example to do all I am capable of. If I am lucky, my daughter will continue to grow up healthy, have her own family, and do all she is capable of for them. Hopefully she will not face any disabilities of her own, if she does however i am sure she will still be equipped to be a great mother, She has had plenty of examples that being a good mother is about giving what you can and not dwelling on what you can’t.