Yesterday, over on Violet Film, I posted #38 in my my year-long quest to post a photo every day. It was just an ordinary photo of an ordinary activity, but it got me to thinking, which led me to blog about it today.
On Sunday, Sarah Kate had her First Reconciliation. We won’t talk about why she had it on February 6 (because I forgot to take her on February 5 when it was scheduled – yet another one of my many failures as a mom). While she was in CCD following Reconciliation, I decided to run to Target and see about picking her up an inexpensive scrapbook, as she had been asking me the previous day about when she was going to be able to scrapbook again (because everyone knows that the best way to make amends for forgetting to take your firstborn child to her initial receipt of one of the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church is, of course, to buy her a gift). Mr. Andi wasn’t home Sunday afternoon, so instead of working alongside her, I tended to Nathan and just let her go wild on the kitchen table.
Later in the afternoon, after Mr. Andi had returned home, I walked over to see what she was working on. She had dutifully journaled each page as she completed it, and had actually made an amazing amount of progress with zero guidance. What really grabbed me, though, was the page that she was working on. She had taped three photos to the page with just three words of journaling – “My happy life” – across the page.
As a mom, I want my kids to lead happy lives. I’ve long since given up on the notion that they should go to Harvard, or become famous, or be elected president. I just want them to find the thing(s) that they love doing and are good at, and do those things. I’d also like for them to find wonderful people who will love them and help them to be the best people they can be.
It’s easy to look at an eight year old girl and think that she’s too ignorant of the cruelty of the world, or too inexperienced to understand difficulty, and maybe Sarah Kate is both of those things. Over the years, however, she’s had to endure a lot more, at least physically, than most kids her age (Botox! Spinal cord surgery! Multi-hour sessions of physical therapy!) She’s tough, though, and resilient, and although she does understand that her capabilities are different, she never indicates with either her words or her emotions that she feels sorry for herself or thinks her life is hard. On rare occasions, she may express that she would like to be able to do this or that better, but I think that’s less about the cerebral palsy and more about the deep-rooted desire that we all have to do or be something better, particularly when we are kids.
Lots of people, unfortunately, assume that people with disabilities aren’t happy. They look at someone like Sarah Kate or Nathan and see the big Thing that holds them back from being Typical, and assume that the big Thing makes their life not worth living. I don’t know what Sarah Kate would say if I were to ask her if she would like her big Thing to be removed so that she could be Typical – maybe she would say yes. But if I were to ask her about her most important qualities, or about the things that matter the most to her, I doubt that cerebral palsy would make the list. CP is just one small part of who she is – a highly visible part, to be sure – and she said it herself with no prompting: her life is happy.