When I Asked My Kids What They Thought About Having a Mom With a Disability
Hello, I’m Just Mom.
My teenage daughter called me that — Just Mom — with a shrug, nonchalant-like. She didn’t mean it disparagingly. It was simply fact. To her, this is how she sees me.
I took it as a compliment, one of the best I’ve ever received. Why?
I had asked her what she thought about having a mother with a disability. I have cerebral palsy, spastic hemiplegia to be specific. The muscles on the left side of my body are tight, constricted, and I can’t grip with my left hand. When I’m tired, I walk with a limp.
I had been reading an article about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the civil rights issues tackled by that historic legislation — employment, fair housing, accessibility. How I felt about my disability was on my mind, and I was curious about her perspective.
Her answer was so wonderfully anticlimactic (with a shrug, even!) that it made me pause. What did I expect? I had no idea. But to be Just Mom — not Disabled Mom, not Mom-With-a-Disability — it was a good feeling.
So I asked my son, too, just to see.
He forgets. Even when looking right at me, with the constricted left arm that to me is so obviously different, he said he forgets that I have a disability. It’s not until I ask for help — a jar to open, a box that needs two hands to lift — that he remembers. I’m the one who badgers him about school and I’m the one who buys the orange juice he likes to guzzle with the fridge door hanging open. He doesn’t see the disability, he sees Just Mom.
I love my kids. I wish I could see myself like they do, with no disability. But for me, cerebral palsy is part of my identity. I was born with it, it’s just who I am. It’s always there. Unlike my son, I can’t forget.
Which is why articles about disabled issues, like the ADA, catch my eye. Despite having adapted nicely throughout my life with no real barriers because of the cerebral palsy — college, job, family, bills and so on — I still consider myself part of the disabled community. I’ve felt the sting of discrimination, ridicule and being judged not on my ability, but on that “dis” in front of it. It’s unfortunate and unfair, and despite that celebrated ADA, we still have a long way to go in terms of true equality.
So in a way it was uplifting to have my kids so casually disregard my disability. They honestly see past it, and while cerebral palsy will always be part of who I am, I’ve now learned — through my children’s eyes — it’s not all that I am.
Hello, I’m Just Mom.
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