Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Another Mom's Observations - "The Mother at the Swings"

I'm so ashamed I don't check my home e-mail more frequently. It wasn't until last night that I found an email from Vicki asking me to check out her new column. Vicki's new piece, "The Mother at the Swings." is up at Literary Mama. The site says she is to be featured in a monthly column and I can't wait for more!

At Jack's birthday party this past Sunday, I encountered a "Mother at the Swings" and had one of the most heart warming and pleasant conversations I've had in a while.

We invited all of Jack's Kindergarten class to his party at Pump it Up! and we were thrilled that many of them came. Since school started, I've gotten to know some of the other Kindergarten Mom's pretty well and I'm usually pretty honest and open about Jenelle's special needs. I was quite surprised however when one Mom that I've gotten to know very well started asking questions about Jenelle.

"Kelly", she said, "I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I had no idea Jenelle had
special needs until I saw you just now feeding her with a g-tube. I can't believe I didn't see it before!"

"Really?" I responded, "I thought I mentioned it. Haven't you seen her in her wheelchair?"

"No!" she said, "Every time I've seen Jenelle, she has been in a stroller. In fact, I've always admired what a well behaved kid she was. She never talks and never acts out! What is her disability?"

And then I proceeded to give her all the details. As you can tell from this blog, I never hold anything back about Jenelle. What I found so flattering was that she was shocked and amazed she didn't see it before. She truly wanted to know more about Jenelle and she wasn't afraid to ask.

People often tell us we're lucky and cursed at the same time because Jenelle's disabilities are not something you notice at first glance. I've often thought that as she has gotten older, that her disabilities are more obvious. But I suppose to someone just seeing her in a typical stroller, you still might not know at first glance.

I've mentioned it before, there are times I just don't know how much information I should volunteer. When they tell me that Jenelle is well behaved or seems sleepy, most times I just nod and agree. Jenelle has so many different issues, I sometimes wonder where to stop. This happened a few weeks ago on the tram at Disneyland. I was sitting next to a young teenage girl who kept staring at Jenelle and telling me how beautiful she was. When she stared to wave and make faces at Jenelle, I decided to tell her that Jenelle was blind and couldn't see.

The young girl immediately perked up and said, "Really? You'd never know from looking at her eyes!" Then she pulled on her Mother's arm and said, "Mom, this little girl is blind!"

The Mother then smiled at me and asked knowingly, "Cortical blindness?"

I knew from her smile that she understood all too well. I responded, "Yes. And she
has Epilepsy too!"

Then the Mother seemed surprised and said, "You've got those seizures under
control, right?"

And I answered that we had recently found some good seizure control.

The Mother smiled and told her Daughter that Jenelle was "special." Her daughter looked to me and said, "I'm special too... I have Autism!"

Not really knowing how to respond I said, "Oh! Her doctors have said Jenelle might be Autistic too."

To which the young girl replied matter of factly, "She probably is!"

And in that instance the tables were turned on me and I didn't know how to respond or what to ask about upon hearing about this girl's Autism. I became the "Mother at the Swings." Thankfully our tram ride came to an end, and the daughter and her mother got off at the first stop. The girl waved goodbye and said goodbye to Jenelle and they went on their way.

I think our society is so concerned about offending others or being politically correct that we often fail to take the time to get to know each other. Even with my vast 4 year experience as a Special Needs Mom, I too find difficulty in asking someone else about their child.

So, in many ways, I can really relate to Vicki's latest work. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Danielle said...

Wow, I am so glad you posted her article. It was VERY good. And your experience at the party helps us, who are not in your situation, to understand just a tiny bit more. I will never be able to fully understand--I will always be the one who is just with the child for a few hours, or the one who gets to just play and have fun with I will never understand..but we want to--Like Vicki said--those outside really want to know what it is like. Thanks for letting us in, Kelly.

Ben & Bennie said...

Wow! Great post, Kelly! You know I've never had the "reversal" happen to me but I sure will be prepared for it now.

Professor said...

Thank you, Kelly, for all of this. I love that you illustrate so well what happens when we do open up. Lovely moments like those you describe. That chipper "I have AUTISM!" is so amazing.