a powerful weapon

Diary’s Facebook page, Saturday night …

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{image is a screenshot of a comment from a reader who was [at the Dancing with the Celebrities event] tonight reading, “The best part was watching Katie’s face while watching her mom. She was impressed, hard thing to do with a teen. }

I will cherish this – for so many reasons. I was so incredibly proud of Katie tonight – and so grateful for her love, her support, and, oh my god, her humor. I’m just so damned proud of the young woman she’s become. If I can impress her, it means the world to me – not because she’s my kid, but because I genuinely value her opinion. I’m just feeling really, really blessed tonight.

Thank you, Fran. So very much.

Katie and I are driving home from Dancing with the Celebrities. I’m trying not to gush, but I can’t help it. I keep telling her how much I appreciated her support tonight, how much it meant to me to have her there. I can feel her eyes roll without having to look over to the passenger’s seat. “I had a really good time,” she says. “You should be really proud of yourself. Now don’t cry and make it weird, ok?”

I laugh and promise to try, choking back the tears that we both already knew were coming. We drive in a comfortable silence for a while.

“Hey, Katie?” I say.

“Yeah?”

“I just want you to know one more thing. When that girl was dancing alone and you went out and danced with her? I thought that was really awesome.”

Silence.

A deep breath.

And then she speaks.

“Mama, could you please not say things like that? It makes me really uncomfortable because it makes it sound like I’m doing something out of the goodness of my heart. I danced because I wanted to dance. No other reason. It wasn’t charity.”

But …

I didn’t say “the girl with Down Syndrome.”

I just said, “the girl.”

I didn’t mean …

Or did I?

That had nothing to do what I was saying, did it?

No, of course not.

I wouldn’t …

I couldn’t …

I did.

My girl has just called me out on my own internalized ableism. The stuff we do and say every day without a second thought. She’s calling bullshit. And she’s absolutely right.

“I hear you,” I say. “But that wasn’t what I meant.”

I’m lying.

I go onto tell her that all that I was referring to was her courage in stepping out onto a nearly empty dance floor. It’s true, but it’s not the Truth. I keep talking. Talking is safe. I tell her that when I was a kid I wasn’t that brave. That so many times I wanted to dance and didn’t. That I admire her for following her heart.

Words.

More and more words to avoid the Truth.

I’m full of crap and we both know it.

I will tell her that she was right, but not yet. I have to admit it to myself first and that won’t come until tomorrow.

No matter how evolved I may want to believe that I am, there are still layers and layers of internalized ableism to peel away and discard. It takes work. And honesty.

Years and years of constantly reinforced isms die hard.

But I have a powerful weapon.

A fourteen year old who isn’t afraid to dance, or to tell her Mama when she’s full of crap.

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{image is a photo of Katie dancing with Luau during one of the clinics at the event.}

17 thoughts on “a powerful weapon

  1. Thank you. Really, thank you. For always forcing yourself to keep it real. I bet it was so hard for you to share this moment. But it reminds all of us, it reminds me that this is a journey. I get ashamed because sometimes I realize I’m not the evolved mind I wish I was.

    No. It takes tenacity in every moment to make sure I am choosing to be the evolved mind I wish I was.

    I mean this in regard to so many aspects of life.

    Thank you so much for putting yourself out there and saying “even I can get it muddled sometimes.”

    It is a very important thing to say.

    Xo

    Amanda

  2. I’d say we’ll be calling Katie Madame President one day, but she’s probably too bright to do that to herself 😀

  3. I always hated/loved it when my young girls called bullshit on me. Katie continues to impress and amaze me at her tender age! #KeepItRealKatie

  4. Yes Unfortunately you succumbed to the dreaded inspiration porn and got called out for it.

    But don’t beat yourself up too badly, I am half deaf in both ears and autistic, and yet I can still slip into that myself, feeling proud of my daughter for having a downs girl for a best friend when the downs part doesn’t actually matter.

    We all have to constantly remind ourselves of ableism, even when we are disabled ourselves. The important thing is that you actually get why it is ableism and care enough to try to change.

    I’ ms till trying myself.

  5. Katie is wonderfully insightful and always has been. Yes, she called you out. It won’t be the last time. We all make mistakes.

    By the way, as an aside–do you not remember dancing in Madison
    Square Garden at the World Cup Gymnastics meet when you were 10? You did a gymnastics/dance with your gymnastics group and smiled and winked at a cute boy in the stands as you danced. How can you forget that when you say you weren’t brave enough to dance?

    Love you,
    Mom

  6. “A fourteen year old who isn’t afraid to dance, or to tell her Mama when she’s full of crap.”

    I do, too, and I couldn’t be more proud. It is wonderful when our children become better than we are; it speaks to the better tomorrows we all hope for.

  7. Katie is a second-generation ablism fighter. She’s been given all your awesome and has her own extra awesome on top which means she’s been less exposed to the subliminal ableism than those of us who came later to the fight. Less exposed means better at spotting it.

  8. This beautiful, amazing young girl is growing up to be quite the beautiful, amazing young lady! She’s going to do great things in this world. No, I stand corrected. She already is. (I must add this. This father-daughter dancing picture is beautiful!)

  9. I had never really thought of it as ableism before, but this is exactly why I hate how the reaction when I tell people I’m a special ed teacher is, “oh, you are such a special person!” or something equally lauding of my “inspirational” job choice. It’s the most uncomfortable thing. I promise, I am no saint. Like Katie, I don’t do what I do for charity.

    • Yeah we get that as parents of autistic children too. It really bugs me when they tell me I must be a saint of some kind raising autistic kids, that I’m something special for it.

      No!

      I’m just a parent like everyone else no more no less. Of course I do the best for my kids because that’s what you do. Whether your kids have special needs or not you don’t abandon them, you do everything you can to make their childhood special.

      I wanted kids, I’ve got them, I just accept them for what I was given.

      The person I admire the most is my younger brother, who married a woman with an autistic son, and took him on as his own – knowing full well what he was taking on, and the difficulties it would bring.

      Now that is special.

      I am just raising the kids that fate decided to give me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  10. Pingback: Personal Reflection | mighty0bean

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