I’ve been thinking about what my first post for this site should be and have thunk my way right here.
I’m Sara, mum to two wonderful boys, my youngest having 18p deletion, a rare genetic disorder. Where my little man and some of his other 18p buddies differ, is that (at the moment at least) he sneaks under the radar. He walks, he talks, he looks like everyone else…so really he doesn’t seem to be different at all and he doesn’t have many of the negative effects that looking and sounding different can bring to a person.
What I have found out though, is that when you have a child who has a diagnosis, but on the surface seems to be the same as everyone else, the negative connotations about being different are still there, and still applied to him, but in a well meaning and topsy turvey way.
I’ve lost count of the people who’ve said “but he looks just like everyone else” or “you would never know there’s anything wrong” or “they met him and didn’t even know there was anything different”.
It’s always said in a way that I absolutely know is meant to make me feel good and I have realised it’s a very complex thing as to why it doesn’t have the desired effect. What makes me feel worse about my under the skin horror of these comments is that it’s often said by people I trust and love – people who teach him, know him, love him, love me…and it’s quite complicated why it bothers me. So if you don’t mind, I’m trying to work it out as I type.
Firstly I think I bristle out of loyalty to everyone out there who isn’t the same as everyone else. Because saying to me that my child is the same, to try to make me feel good, feels like a huge betrayal to all of them if I take it as it’s meant, as a compliment.
Secondly because it makes the assumption that it would affect me in any negative way if he wasn’t quite this lucky and typical. Because that undermines the fierce love that I have for him, and would have in equal measure if he was blind, deaf, dysmorphic in his features, in a wheelchair, unintelligable in his speech and so on…
Thirdly it also undermines the things that go on behind the scenes of his “normal”. Behind the curly hair and podgy cheeks and the sparkly eyes and magic smile and the seemingly uber-coping Mummy. The immune system that can take us by surprise, the concentrated learning that is endemic in our daily routine, carried out as subterfuge to all involved. The physio that also slips into that routine, the constant checkups, the worry about all the things that his magic genetic makeup can and will bring to us and the fear of everything I know.
Fourthly because if I allow myself, or anyone else to deny that he is different, rather than empower them through him to respond effectively to “different”, I am not doing what I was put here to do. And I won’t be doing myself or him, or indeed them any favours at all.
Me and my boy are who and how we are for a reason. I have always told him and anyone else who’ll listen that he isn’t the same as everyone else, but woe betide anyone who treats him as if he is. Like it or not, our society is full of cruelty behind all the quiet good intentions of the good people who float within it. People are squeamish about disability, about things they don’t understand and indeed fear in the depth of their souls for themselves and their families.
So if my little boy right now can be a poster child for people who need help dipping their toe into the water of tolerance and understanding around disability, then I’ll take that as a clear wonderful mission for us, while he’s still “typical” enough to do it.
But do me a favour, spread the word for anyone working or living in the London area. Watch out for pointless platitudes spilling out of your mouth, supposedly to make a parent, or sibling, or grandparent feel better about their affected relation.
Because that recipient might be me
And I might not be feeling as kind as I am now
thanks for listening and see you here soon