Friday, November 2, 2012

You Can't Be a Good Parent

In a wheelchair at the store, I was chatting with someone while waiting in line when one of the store employees asked me where my kids were. I responded that they were home working on a homeschool project. The person with whom I was chatting asked how many kids I have. I answered, "Five." She seemed disgusted. "Five children? And you homeschool them? Why, you can't even walk and were just saying your hands aren't working well these days either! You can't possibly be a good parent, nevermind teach all those kids!" 

Awesome store employee to the rescue! "Excuse me, ma'am, but you should meet her kids before you say that. They're intelligent, well-behaved, and are the kindest, most helpful kids I've ever met."

I thanked the employee and said to the woman that I had no idea that how well a person's body functions had any impact on the quality of parenting or teaching the person could do - and asked her to please not let Stephen Hawking, his kids or his students in on that presumption. She gave me a confused look, paid for her items, and left.

This, as well as a couple conversations on a psoriatic arthritis message board I moderate got me thinking. What impact does my disability have on my parenting and my kids' education? What are my kids learning because of my disability that they might not otherwise learn, or at least not learn as well?

My children learn empathy and compassion, as well as the importance of self-care, by not only watching me live with my current limitations, but thriving with them.

In talking to them about all the things I'd love to be doing with them, about my frustration over not being able to do those things with them, and brainstorming together what we CAN do to live our lives to the fullest they are learning a lot about navigating through life and overcoming obstacles.

In seeing me go from being fairly healthy and "normal" to using canes or a wheelchair, my children are learning that someone's outward appearance, including whatever devices they use to get themselves around, have nothing to do with who that person is.

My children are learning to look at life not only through their own eyes, but through the eyes of someone in a wheelchair, someone with chronic pain, someone with mobility issues, someone with chronic exhaustion. They are learning not to assume things about people - because some people who look healthy don't feel at all healthy.

The lesson that this is a world full of give and take, that life isn't fair, that bad things happen to good people - and that all that is ok, is not lost on them. They are learning how to find balance in a give-and-take world, how to accept what life throws at them when it seems unfair, and that most things that may seem bad at first glance can be blessings if you let them.

And yes, they are learning standard school subjects, and more. They are learning math through playing games, cooking, and grocery shopping. They learn to read and write at their own pace, reading what they love, writing what they conjure in their minds, and following their passions. They're learning history through journals and diaries, museums and historical sites, and through talking with people who lived it. They learn science through hypothesizing, experimenting, researching, feeling, seeing, and doing. They also learn computer programming, theater, Latin, art, money managing, Tai Chi, hooping, sewing, and so much more. 



They are learning that people matter much more than things. That spending time with someone is infinitely better than spending money on them. That friendship is just as much about what you give to the relationship as what you get from it. That a sense of humor is priceless and can make all the difference between a good day and a bad day. That when you commit to doing something, you see it through. That asking for help is ok. That friends come in all shapes, colors, sizes, ages, and abilities.

Somehow I think the woman at the store could benefit from hanging out with my kids for a day or two - she seems to have a lot to learn.


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