Monday, March 1, 2010

Through the Eyes of a Mother (But first a disclaimer!)

I'm still new to blogging.  I'm still in the process of figuring out what I want to say, how I want to say it, trying to be interesting, truthful, coherent, and not pretentious.  I have found myself try to cater to different groups of people in my life, and not alienating the others.  For example.  I don't want my Christian friends to think my blog is just all about Down Syndrome.  Likewise, I don't want my fellow DS moms to think that my blog is just a religious rant.  I fear that if I poor out all that's inside of me, some people will think "who does she think she is?" (Especially those who knew me as a silly, foolish teenager, and may still see my that way.  Know what I mean?)  If I take all these thoughts into consideration while writing, the end result is a blog that is about as interesting as low sodium saltine cracker.  These thoughts have been keeping me from blogging much lately.  No longer.  From now on the only thing that will keep me from blogging is either a lack of time, or lack of comprehensible thoughts.  So readers, if what you read on any given day just isn't your "cup of tea,"  fear not, something different is on the way.
On to today...

I've been wanting to tell you all about a little girl that I know, and how she made me realize a that major change had happened inside of me.  Here's the story.
Every day I take Keaton, my 4 year old, to preschool at the local public school.  Every now and then I come across a young girl, with some kind of impairment, who's personal aid is an acquaintance of mine.  (To protect her, I'll call her Janie, and I won't be too specific about her)  Janie walks differently, with her knees turned in.  She's not terribly shy, or outgoing, but when we talk, she often wants to show me her favorite little toy, and share it with Karis (when Karis is with me).  She doesn't really have a speech impediment, she just talks, well, differently that we do.  I don't know what her diagnosis is, It's none of my business.  But one day when Karis and I stopped to talk to her, and her aid, a thought occurred to me.  There is no way I would have done this 2 years ago.

In my pre-Karis days, I was one of those people who was very uncomfortable around people with disabilities.  I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, constantly in fear that I would hurt their feelings or embarrass them, or myself!  I just didn't know what the rules were, and I was certain I would break 10 of them.  So I stayed away.  I went down the other isle at Walmart so I wouldn't be engaged in conversation.  I walked and waved, if they were with someone I knew.  If they were in the living room, I was in the kitchen. (I'm so sorry friends, it's true.)  I am embarrassed and filled with remorse over this, now.

On that day (that I was talking to Janie), I pondered why this change in me had occurred.  Why am I suddenly at ease in this situation?  It had to be more than just the fact that I had a baby with Down Syndrome.  Karis seemed just like any other baby for the most part.  It was something else.  Eventually the answer came to me, and even though these reasons seem obvious, they eluded me at the time.  Here we go...

1.  People like Janie never meant to make me uncomfortable.  They were just always going about their days, like I was, being themselves, acting normal.  The ones in Walmart probably didn't even notice me.  They certainly didn't have an agenda to try to embarass me.
2.  They aren't "the way they are" on purpose.  Let's face it, some people with disabilities can act differently than those who don't.  It's not right or wrong, it's just who God made them to be, and that's ok.  They aren't like obnoxious teenagers who go around raising a rucus just to get attention or to get a rise out of people.  (Please don't be offended at the comparison, I'm just trying to make a point).
3.  The rules I was afraid of breaking don't exist.  People with disabilities, and their families, are among the nicest, most accepting, and easy to talk to people you'll ever know.  You can talk to them if you want to.  But you don't have to.  They have been where you are, and are sensitive to the fact that you might be uncomfortable.  As long as you have a basic grasp of manners and tact, you aren't going to say the wrong thing, trust me.
4.  My final observation that should have been obvious was as follows.  Janie has a mom.  I have seen her in the parking lot.  And Janie's mom, I assume, didn't want this for her daughter.  Janie's mom probably cried when she heard the news, just like I did with Karis.  But Janie's mom loves her and is proud of her and all that she has accomplished.  I saw Janie, like I see Karis, through the eyes of a mother.

All of these thing have changed the way I feel about people with disabilities, and how I treat them.   Now, I want to show them love, and compassion, and patience.  I want to know them, and be their friend.  Because now I know that, just like my sweet little Karis, they are absolutely wonderful.

So don't worry folks.  There's nothing to be tense about.  You don't need to ponder the "Do I look, or not look, I don't want to stare, but I don't want to ignore."   Do either, we probably won't notice.  Ok, don't stare, that goes back to the basic grasp of manners and tact.  But just know that we aren't waiting for you to mess up.  I guess what I am saying is that when you come in contact with someone with a disablity, think about the 4 points I made today, and most of all, RELAX!

Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear from you!!!


Anonymous said...

From this mothers eyes I am proud of my dauther and wonder how she has gotten so smart from a mother who can't put what she feels in words. You have turned into a beautiful women and most of all human. I hope you know where I was coming from when you was growing up.Trying to be a good mother is the hardest thing as women we have to do and we don't always know if we are doing the thing.My reward is seeing how you turned out I'm proud of you!

Pat McCain said...

Tracy, you have great insight and compassion. I really enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work, God has given you a great gift.

Misti Obregon said...

No where near as dry as a cracker, nor are my eyes. I love your raw honesty, and the ability to say what we all feel. I am truly blessed to be friends of you and your family. I know this sounds silly, but you honestly make me proud to know you.