The Time My Daughter Proved ‘Because She Can’t’ Wrong


There’s a sentence I am trying to take out of my vocabulary; it has been there since she was born: “Because she can’t.”

I found myself saying it a lot when her brother would whine that she was getting special help or attention. He would point out that we did it for her or she got away with this or that. He wanted to know why it was different for him; I didn’t know how to explain it at times, and sometimes I didn’t want to, so my response was usually “because she can’t.” But why can’t she do it? Just because I was assuming that she can’t, I wasn’t even entertaining the thought that she might be able to do it.

I never planned to get in her way, and I want her to fall; it’s the only way she will learn how to get back up. But I find myself doing things for her, many times not even letting her try first.

I was focused on what the doctors said, but also the things I was learning about her condition, when people said things like, “They may never walk, talk or do anything a typical child does as they grow.” I didn’t expect to celebrate the same milestones we did with our first child. Again, that sentence “because she can’t” was dictating my actions, thoughts and opinions.

Then one day I turned my back for a second, and there she was on the third step of the stairs. My throat filled with a lump for so many different reasons, fear being one of them, but mostly because she did it and kept doing. She climbed the stairs, stood up, and turned a page in a book. She started butt-scooting to get where she needed or wanted to go. She was doing all the things I didn’t think she would.

She was proving me and everyone else wrong. She wasn’t just hitting the milestones; she was leaving them in the dust. She, like others who face a barrier, decided she could and would.

This is where my view on disability started to changed. I see disability much differently now. It is right in front of my face every day. I am learning that everyone can do, but sometimes in a different way. I am learning that I was as unaware, misguided and misinformed as most people tend to be, whether on purpose or not.

Michael J. Fox said”

“If a child can’t learn the way we are teaching them, then we must teach them the way they can learn.”

I can see the ability in disability now, and it is a fascinating thing. It puts me to shame and makes me re-think the complaints, vents and pity parties I have had for myself. It is a very inspiring and surreal experience when you watch someone not only thrive, but surpass the expectations of everyone else.

It has gotten easier to stop focusing on the disability with the help of those around us, especially her classmates. They accept her for her, they don’t ask questions, and when they do, a simple “Because she was born with it” is all it takes. They don’t seem to notice the difference and it makes me wonder, is there really a difference? Would they see it if not for the adults in their lives shushing them and scolding them?

When I look at her, I do what the kids in her class have taught me… I see her. I have stopped comparing her to others. I have stopped thinking she can’t and believing she can. I think a part of me knew I needed to see things in a different light and step back in part because of her, but also because of her brother. I didn’t want him to get lost or lose his voice in the midst of everything.

I am a mother first and there are decisions I need to make for both my children. I will always reach before I think, speak before I reflect, and doubt every decision I make, while  praying that they will understand that everything I did was for two reasons: Gavyn and Harley.

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