Wednesday, March 11, 2015
My kid is doing a great job of raising me
I had a conversation the other day with a guy who works in the mailroom at the office. He has an intellectual disability. He no longer works in our area, but sometimes before he leaves at the end of the day he pops into my doorway to chat a bit. I'm always happy to see him.
When I first started working in the magazine business, there was another guy with ID who also worked in the mailroom. I spoke with him, too, but I always felt sorry for him.
I don't feel badly for the guy at my office now. I'm glad he is employed, and engaged in what he does. Talking with him is part of my office life—I mention it only because of the contrast in my attitude between then and now.
It's because of Max, of course.
A few months ago, on Max's birthday, my wonderful friend Bari Nan wrote Max this message on Facebook: "Every minute you've been on this earth has been a gift to your family—and their friends. You are doing a GREAT job of raising your parents!"
I thought it was one of the truest things anyone's ever said. There's so much I've learned from parenting Max. About patience: Max is on his own timeline, and nobody else's. About focusing on what your child can do, rather than what he can't. About the balancing act of encouraging independence but also helping your kid. About being an advocate and a champion for the services he needs—and the inclusion he deserves. About trusting my gut no matter what experts say. About doing the best I can and not beating myself up for being unable to do every single thing.
Most of all, Max has opened my mind, transforming my perception of disability. I think until you have a child with special needs, or grow up with a a person in your family or close friend who has a disability, you don't fully perceive the ability. You don't get that people with disabilities aren't to be pitied. You don't get that they can have a full, rich, and happy life—just like any other human being.
Oh, and let me not forget: I have also learned how to speak the language of doctors and therapists, talk my way into any kind of medical appointment, "persuade" (read: bulldoze) the insurance company to pay bills, fill out forms with amazing speed, get more done in a day than seems humanly possible and leap over tall buildings in a single bound.
Image source: Flickr/kennymatic