We’re Not Embarrassed, Why Are You?
by Jenni McBride
Photo credit: Cecily Cook at Chaos & Bliss Photography
Recently I was pushing my son’s wheelchair around a local craft store. A young girl around 6 years old came around a corner with her mom and noticed Jeffrey, my son. This young innocent girl began pointing to Jeffrey and asking her mom various questions. “Mom, why is that boy like that?” “Why is his head down?” “Why isn’t he walking?” Clearly embarrassed by the questions, the mother whisked her daughter away telling her to stop pointing and be quiet. Over the course of 21 years of this exact scene playing out time and time again, we have learned a few things that we would like to pass on.
- #1) I know my son has different limitations than your child. It isn’t news to me, or to anyone in my family. (As I type this, I kind of chuckle at how ridiculous this sounds.) When anyone of any age seems to become embarrassed about the condition my son is in I laugh. This isn’t some type of news flash for us. We have had the honor of being Jeffrey’s family for his entire life. Most of the time, when children ask these questions, they are curious and want information. As a family, we have no problem talking to you about Jeffrey. Don’t be embarrassed to ask, we love educating people about Jeffrey.
- #2) Most parents are proud of their children. They don’t shy away from talking about their accomplishments or when they overcome a milestone in their child’s life. As Jeffrey’s Mom, I feel the exact same way. If your child asks the questions like the little girl in the craft store, I am fine answering them. I have no problem telling anyone that Jeffrey’s legs don’t work like most people. His eyes can’t see like yours and mine. That Jeffrey can’t answer your questions when you ask him. But that Jeffrey can give you a high 5. That he will laugh if you snort or hiccup. That he will clap when he is in a good mood. And that he is nothing to be embarrassed about, scared of or hide from. Jeffrey is amazing! I love sharing this information to anyone who is willing to listen.
- #3) Even though Jeffrey can’t talk to you, he likes being talked to. Take a minute and ask him if he is having a good day. Hold his hand in yours for a minute. Tell him you like his haircut. When you take a minute to interact with Jeffrey, it doesn’t take long to realize how special he is. While Jeffrey was in high school, one of his teachers told us to have him run for Student Body President. We laughed for a minute over the idea but as we were walking down the halls of the school pushing him, we caught a glimpse of what his teacher meant. It seemed like calls came from everywhere of people yelling, “Hey Jeffrey.” “What’s up Jeffrey?” “Hey look, there’s Jeffrey. Let’s go say hi!” Without the ability to verbalize, Jeffrey had made each of his peers feel loved and special. He has that kind of impact of people, if they will just give him a chance.
Everyone in this world is in the middle of their own adventure. Some of us are further down the road than others or have taken a different course. On the adventure of motherhood with a child with special needs, my view may be totally different than some. But I am sure that most of us parents can agree that instead of trying to quiet your child, educate them. Show them by example that they can walk up to anyone, smile and say hi. It’s the first step in a direction that could lead them down a road of acceptance and understanding that will help carry them in the rest of their lives.
First posted on http://missesmiscellany.com/