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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

why I'm sorry

Do you ever look back at the way you used to think and feel ashamed?  Ashamed about thoughts you had, judgements you made, words you said?

When Smiler was a couple of months old he had an appointment at as children's centre in Clifton. I took Smiler on the bus in a sling, and sat in the waiting room, wondering how late the appointments were running.  The door opened, and in came a group of five or six women chattering happily to one another, each with a baby or child in their arms.  The youngest child of the group was snuggled into a bucket seat, fast asleep while her mother carried her past me and down a corridor along with the rest of the group.

I estimated the child as being between twelve and eighteen months - she had silky wisps of blond hair, a bunch of plastic keys clutched in a pudgy hand, and the facial characteristics of a child with Downs.  I looked down at my Smiler baby, snoozing in my arms, looked back at the child being carried in front of me and thought 'at least he's not as bad as that'.


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The parents were taking their children to Sunbeams, kind of an invitation-only baby and toddler group for children with disabilities, to which Smiler was invited six months later.  I saw that little girl often - even after we'd left Sunbeams we saw her around and about, as you do, and when Smiler started at Gateway Club, run by Mencap, we found she attended too.  She's sixteen months older than Smiler, and does indeed have Downs syndrome.  

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Every single time I see her, it hurts.  I think because I have such a clear memory of comparing her to Smiler - we all know we shouldn't, but the reality is that we all do it, even if it's not a conscious thing.  She was babbling at two, single words six months later, and speaking in sentences a year after that.  She walked at three, toilet trained at four, mainstream school at five.  
Day to day with Smiler, you just get on with it - you do all those things that need doing.  Get him dressed, change his pad, translate what he says to people around him, catch him as he falls, help him eat, read stories to him in funny voices.  And every time I see that girl, I notice.  I notice all those things he needs help with, all the things we have to do for him.  All the things that are so far out of his reach that that he doesn't even have any concept of them.  All those skills he won't master.  And it hurts all over again.

To that little girl, that day, I'm sorry about all those judgements I made about you in a split second.

To that mother, that day, I'm sorry that I looked at you and felt pity for your lot in life.

To that girl, today, I'm sorry about the hot flash of anger I feel towards you every single time I see you.

To that mother, today, I'm sorry for the sharp stab of jealousy that I feel every time we cross paths.

To my baby, my Smiler, every day, I'm sorry I couldn't make the world safe for you.  I'm sorry you've endured so much pain, so much frustration, so much confusion.  I'm sorry that I used to be as judgmental as the people I now battle with.  I'm sorry.


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Thanks for reading, and I hope you have the chance to laugh today.

x

11 comments:

  1. I find it so hard to comment. I don't even know where to start really.
    I think we are all judgmental, we all look around us and make snap-judgments that are true and not true in equal measures. I think before you have a child with disability you don't really understand what it's like. Even after you don't always understand.
    How the old saying of "walk a mile in my shoes" was right. But we never listen to it anyway.
    Did i make snap judgements? Yes. I still do, but less I hope.
    Do you feel bad for being jealous? You shouldn't. I think we all are, we all compare all the time, and everyone else's life seems so much... Easier. Better. More.
    I find myself envy people who's child disability is "more" than mine because they get recognised easier, I find myself envy people who's child disability is "more common" because at least they have a support system, i find myself envious of people who's children are "normal".
    I feel guilty for all of that.
    I fell guilty that I don't accept his problem, that I would wish it away in a second given the slightest chance.
    I feel guilty for always looking at him, always checking.
    Your post was so touching. So real. So much what I feel some days. If it helps, you are not alone. I feel guilty and ashamed and a bad mum and sorry for so many things, some real and some not, but it doesn't make them any less real for me.

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    1. Thank you Orli - we're definitely on the same page!
      L x

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  2. As Orli says I do believe we are all judgemental of others to a degree, thankfully it lessens as we get older but I honestly think it's an inbuilt thing. So admirable to have admitted it, if only everyone could be so honest the world would be a better place x

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    1. Thank you Mamasaurus, your kind words mean a lot.
      Lucas

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  3. Well done on such an honest post, and I'm sure the mother and daughter would accept your apology.

    You are not alone though. Yes with my oldest son I used to think that if he was "obviously" autistic (rather than so high functioning) it would be "easier" - omg "easier" - that he would get the help blah, blah, blah. Now I have a little boy who does have many extra needs than his sibling and I wish he had less.

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    1. Thank you - it means a lot to me that you've taken a moment to comment. I know what you mean about 'easier' - that balance between visible/invisible disabilities is a really tricky one - to some extent I think it's one of those grass is always greener on the other side situations.
      Take care
      Lucas

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  4. YOu are right that even when we should we do pass judgement and as parents we should know better. The good thing is what when we know better we do better. The healing starts today :0)

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  5. I think it is very brave of you to admit your failing. We all have our weaknesses and thereby we compare and contrast ourselves, our families, our lives with others to try and compensate. A natural instinct to protect ourselves. You did not do wrong, you were just thankful for your blessings, accurate or not. And even when things are really tough, they are still blessings which we must always appreciate and be grateful for. You did this by instinct, not to spite another family, but to appreciate your own. A beautiful post, filled with honesty and love for your child, and I am sure that the other family would appreciate the sentiment and feelings behind it, no doubt having been there too at some point in their lives.

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    1. Thank you Seaside Mama, for your kind thoughts and your understanding. I hope I'm starting to get some perspective, but on bad days I still hold so much guilt - for everything ... everything I said and did, and everything I didn't say and didn't do.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment - it helps to know that others judge me less harshly than I often judge myself.
      Lucas

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  6. An honest and heartfelt post. Don't beat yourself up too much. There's not a single one of us who can say we haven't judged someone, or been glad not to be in their shoes. I'm sure Smiler would say you have nothing to be sorry for. That you're the centre of his world and he loves you x

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    1. Thank you Donna, for your kind words - I hope you're right!
      Take care, and thank you for taking the time to comment.
      Lucas

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