I have a confession to make.
Some people may have suspected it for awhile, and even though I’d like to deny it, it’s time that I came clean. Maybe if I take the first step, another special needs mother (or two or three or four…) will do the same. Or maybe not … maybe I’m the only one.
I’m too sensitive.
Last week, I agonized over whether or not the catcher in Sarah Kate’s softball game “let her” steal second base and whether prearranged touchdowns and such are motivated by true inclusion or something else. A lot of you shared your thoughts, and not everyone was in agreement (and some of you admitted to being unsure of your own opinion on the subject).
Over on my personal Facebook page, a friend of mine (who doesn’t have children, much less two with special needs) convicted me with one simple sentence.
“If I have to make an assumption about somebody’s motivations, then I try to assume the scenario that makes me smile.”
I don’t think it was his intent to call me out, and some folks might say he shouldn’t have an opinion if he hasn’t walked in my shoes, or that his statement was much too Pollyanna – life isn’t that simple.
But maybe it could be.
Years ago, when I was an electrical engineering major, I was one of a small handful of women – and only two of us were blonde. Whether I liked it or not, there was a spotlight shining on me all the time because I was different. Some people approved; others did not; most probably didn’t have an opinion one way or another. I made some adjustments to how I interacted with a few people, but for the most part I was just myself and I didn’t worry about the folks who weren’t high on my presence.
That’s how I imagine my children’s lives to be.
Sarah Kate has always had a spotlight shining on her, and she handles it much the same way I handled being a female electrical engineering major in 1991. She just is, navigating the world as best she can. Nathan isn’t yet fully aware that he’s different, but I bet he’ll be the same way.
My second job out of college was with a large company that was dominated by engineers, many of whom were male, but female engineers weren’t uncommon. I noticed one woman right away that seemed to have a chip on her shoulder. It was clear from the way she interacted with people that she felt she needed to be like the men in order to succeed. I never understood that line of thinking – sometimes being a woman was a disadvantage (I wasn’t always taken seriously), but other times it gave me an advantage (I got support folks to cooperate by sweet-talking them 🙂 ). Regardless, she wasn’t a man and could never be.
I think I’ve gotten too hung up on equality.
Once upon a time I was the laid back girl who stood out but didn’t fret about it. Now that I’m a mom of two children who stand out, and I’m in danger of becoming that woman who insisted on not being different … an impossible feat.
If you have three minutes, watch the video below. It’s a familiar story – an orchestrated touchdown – but I want you to stick around until the very end.
The boy at the end of the clip got me. He wasn’t patting himself on the back for the great thing he did for the poor kid with the learning disability – he was sharing how his participation in the touchdown changed him personally, for the better. The boy who scored isn’t “equal” to his peers, but he is loved and cared for by them. They have his back; they are kind.
Maybe I’m naive, but I believe kindness is enough.
If I wished, I could spend every day of the week voicing a new litany of grievances. Mondays: People carelessly use the r-word. Tuesdays: Players who orchestrate a fake touchdown are self-serving. Wednesdays: People put me on a pedestal that I don’t deserve. Thursdays: Stay-at-home moms don’t get the respect they should. Fridays: The world isn’t made for short people.
I’m not so naive that I think it won’t hurt the next time I hear someone carelessly use the r-word, and I can’t promise that I won’t attribute a nefarious or self-serving motive the next time someone does something involving one of my children that makes me uncomfortable. But I’m going to try following my friend Joey’s advice and, in those situations, assume the scenario that makes me smile.