Thursday, September 25, 2008

Teach Your Children Well

“We are our stories. Our stories give meaning to our lives. Through them, we discover ourselves. By sharing them, they give us strength and make us part of something larger that embraces all the mysteries of life’s joys and sorrows.” Susan Zimmerman, Grief Dancers

I've been pretty good at keeping my blog a positive place for posting. I had an unusually troubling day last Friday and I thought it warranted a post, albeit not the most uplifting post I've written. Life isn't always a box of chocolates as we all know and when I feel a good lesson for all can be learned I will start sharing more of our cloudy days with you.

Ava and I loaded up the car with coolers and headed to Loveland for our bi-weekly trip to Sam's Club last Friday. Usually we get settled in our cart, glance one last time at the list, take off for the pull ups section and then on to the groceries, no messing around. This trip was a bit different since we were also searching for a Backyardigans cake for Ava's 3rd birthday party (this Saturday, 11:00 at Grandma Hugen's, come by if you are in the area).

Everything was status quo for us as we approached the bakery. As I stood in line to grab a book I noticed a Grandmother, Mother and three boys waiting to get a book also. We all finally made it to the Sam's Club size stack of books, grabbed one and began searching for that perfect birthday cake. The oldest of the boys was turning 10, as he flipped through the pages of his book he assured me that he would let me know if he ran across any Backyardigans cakes. I would have returned the favor but he had nothing specific in mind.

His two little brothers must have been around 6 & 8 years old and were hanging out behind me and the cart with Ava in it. It was afternoon and Ava was getting tired. When she is fatigued, her vision is not at top speed and she often times reverts back to nervous habits she formed from her blindisms (in particular she bangs both of her hands together at her fingertips, it is the sign for more, came from hand ringing by mouth) as an infant. Often times she also moves her head a lot (like Stevie Wonder) because it is easier for her to see objects when moving, part of the CVI, along with great vestibular input.

I could see that Grandma was more interested in looking at cakes with mom and big brother than watching the other boys. Almost immediately I heard "What's wrong with her, is she stupid, why does she keep doing that?". This went on for about 2-3 minutes as I sensed Grandma behind me becoming more and more intimidated by these two little shits actions. I had given both Mom and Grandma plenty of time to correct the behavior of these two boys before I finally turned around and said, "honey, she can't see, that's why she is doing that" in a very stern, yet concerning voice. They knew I wasn't impressed, all 5 of them.

Quickly Grandma asked "Does she read braille? What's her name?" I told her Ava's name as she scorned the boys and said repeatedly, "She can't see you, tell her hello, her name is Ava. I bet she's the same age as our neighbor Ava". This debacle continued to spiral for another minute or so before I finally put the book back and left cake to boot.

It is important to note that this is not the first time (and I know it is not the last time) we have experienced a situation like this. I have very strict family rules about how questions and concerns for Ava are handled in general and they include tolerance, patience and most of all KINDNESS towards others ignorance. It is the only respectful way to handle things when considering Ava and the building of her self esteem and general attitude. I followed my rules, kept my cool but deep down inside something was different this time.

The lack of parenting certainly was disturbing. If your children are old enough to recognize the differences in others, they are old enough to start learning tolerance and manners. Both of these boys were old enough to be shameful after I spoke, they knew what they were doing was wrong. I would not have been offended if they would have asked me to explain Ava so they were able to teach these children how to tactfully approach curiosity, it would actually have been a relief.

But what was really bothering me, why was this particular moment so hard for me? As I tucked Ava safely away in her car seat, turned the music on and began driving the tears rolled down my face. It was that moment when I realized there is a very large dagger in my heart and soul that will probably remain forever. That I have grieved my own loss for Ava's normal life but will never, ever get over the injustice she will face for the rest of her life simply by being different. The idea that people with differences are some how less of a person than "typical" folks runs strong in our society, just ask a person of color or non-christian religion, I'm sure they have similar stories of intolerance.

I have recovered from our incident and Ava certainly didn't mind it as much as I did. Being pregnant has been particularly emotional for me this time around. In some ways it has forced me to deal with feelings I probably could of tucked away another 10 or 20 years. I now see this as the first gift new baby girl Jaksha has given me, given our family.

“Our stories shape us. They give us our songs and our silence. When they are full of joy, they allow us to soar. When they are full of pain, they allow us to journey into the darkness of our souls where we meet ourselves, sometimes for the first time. They destroy us and allow us to rebuild. We must share our stories. They are our gifts.” Susan Zimmerman, Grief Dancers


Kirsten said...

thank you...for so much...thank you

The Kingfam said...

Taz- You are an amazing mom! One who has accepted her award of being the mom to an extraordinary, beautiful child, with grace and compassion. I have yet to see one special child NOT teach the world a thing or two... Maybe even 1,000's of things the world has yet to learn... about just that, grace and compassion... I haven't seen it get easier for the moms I know, but I have seen the their skin get thicker, and their words "well chosen" and quite prepared.. I've also seen their children grow with them into a magnificent team, where they see you as their words to the world for what they want the world to know about them. I say this as I can vividly remember Holly licking her finger and wiping it on a stranger at Bronco game, and Eileen saying, "Holly justs you want to know what it tastes like in her mouth, she's so generous isn't she?" With a chuckle and a slight apology, but not much of one. We were all dying laughing, and Holly was laughing the hardest... As Ava gets older, as with all children, she will learn from you how to find her place. Hopefully it is with as much humor, grace and dignity I see you handling her with now! May your stories get easier and not so painful, and eventually quite humorous and gratifying, knowing you have opened another person's eyes, to their very closed off world... You were chosen specifically for this job, it was not a mistake. You are the best mom for your job! Happy emotional roller coaster day! And may you have some sunlight that none of us will get today! :) Smiles and blessings Taz!
(Sorry.. didn't mean to write so much! LOL I can't help it sometimes.. LOL It's naptime can you tell?)
And if you get in a cake pinch again, let me know.. I might know someone who could help... ;)

Emily said...

You are my inspiration to be a better person and stay positive. Your strength is astounding and admirable. Thank you for sharing.

Summer said...

You are an amazing Mom!
You are also an amazing teacher!
You are the Mom that all of us strive to be!
Thank you for all of your life Experiences and sharing them with us. Every time I read your blog I learn something new and more tolerance for everyone. Thank you so much!!!!

Love the Leatherberry's

Robyn said...

Wow. Your post made me cry my eyes out. It astounds me how cruel people can be to one another-even children who don't mean to be cruel but haven't been taught any better.

You are an incredibly patient mother, and I'm always telling Heath how much I admire you and how patient you are with Ava. I sometimes feel that I could learn a thing or two from you in dealing with Kaden.

I wish that more schools would go to integrated special education, not only for the special needs kids, but the "typical" children who learn tolerance and understanding. I think that both of my kids have gained amazing views of other children and can empathize with them because they have been in classes with special needs kids.

Lots of hugs to you, I know how heartbreaking words can be (or stares when a certain little boy is having a breakdown in public.) Just know that you are amazing, Ava is amazing, and you are doing a great job.