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Feeling 'Invisible' as a Special Needs Mom on Super Tuesday

I¬†checked the clock: 8:07 a.m. I have roughly 20¬†minutes to get the little¬†girl who lives in my house dressed, hair done and out the door. Will I¬†make it? Heaven only knows. I have everything laid out next to me on¬†the couch: lotion, underwear, outfit, shoes and socks, hair bows, brush, comb,¬†spray bottle. My oh my, this little girl has a glam squad getting her ready¬†for kindergarten. It’s a good thing her mommy is a stylist because this level of suitin’ and bootin’ is usually reserved¬†for those who regularly walk a red carpet. You couldn’t tell her that, though. The¬†world is her stage, and she rips the runway with much ‚Äėtude.

The¬†television is on and Scooby Doo is helping solve the latest mystery along¬†with his meddlesome compadres while DD, my little girl,¬†finishes¬†her breakfast. As I¬†maneuvered behind her, I could hear another television just behind the wall. The¬†presidential candidates are in a fierce war of words, trying desperately to¬†outdo each other with clever witticisms. Pundits are all so eager to opine and¬†sip on airtime. ‚ÄúHumph,‚ÄĚ I thought to¬†myself. ‚ÄúThe campaign trail has nothing on our household. Forget the race to¬†the White House. The real race is getting out of my¬†house.‚ÄĚ I checked the time again: 8:15 a.m.

I¬†picked up the spray bottle and aimed it at her hair. A few quick sprays of water and like magic her curls¬†reform. I pick up a brush and smooth one puff, then two, then one¬†double-ponytail, then two. A few twists and barrettes on the ends and we are¬†done. 8:23 a.m. I tap her on the shoulder and she turns to look at me. ‚ÄúLet’s go, Toot,‚ÄĚ I say. She picked up the¬†remaining bacon on her orange sectioned plate¬†and heads¬†to the kitchen with¬†plate in hand as I headed to that place behind the wall where I hear the¬†candidates’ voices. I glance at the television as I put on my shoes and shake¬†my head again. I can still hear them as I walk away from the room and toward¬†the front door.

I picked up the previous night’s homework from¬†the cubicle by the door along with the backpack she refused to acknowledge this morning: 8:30 a.m. I am now¬†officially running late.

‚ÄúTime¬†to go to school, Toot.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúNo,‚ÄĚ she said as she dances¬†with her shadow outside the SUV, oblivious that the clock is¬†ticking and her mother is, too.

‚ÄúToot, let’s go!‚ÄĚ I shout as I walk toward¬†her. She spins on a dime, hand on her hips¬†as she bops toward the SUV and stops again at the open door.

‚ÄúGet¬†in, Sweet. We’re late for school,‚ÄĚ I¬†say.

Once we’re both finally buckled in, I look¬†at the clock: 8:36¬†a.m. The morning bell rings at 8:45 a.m. Late isn’t even the word. As a matter of¬†fact, this is what can be called ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ on any given day in our household.

A short mile later, I stop at a stop sign and hear, ‚Äúding ding ding!‚ÄĚ

I look at the digital dashboard. Fuel Level Low.

At¬†this point all I can do is laugh. I chuckled to myself and thought about all¬†the things I needed to do after I dropped DD at school that did not¬†include a trip to the gas station. Nonetheless, a quick jaunt around the next¬†corner and the entrance gate was in full view. Following the circular road, I bypassed the parking lot and pulled up to the curb right near the yellow ‚Äúno¬†parking‚ÄĚ line. I checked the time again:¬†8:42 a.m. I’ve got three minutes to make it happen.¬†I helped her arms through her backpack. I handed¬†her the homework and grabbed my phone. We headed toward the gate.

A short walk past two opened doors and we were at her classroom. She walked in and looked around. After a quick greeting from one of her classmates, she took her backpack off and hung it on the hook under her personal cubby. The teacher walked towards me as I watched DD.

‚ÄúGood¬†morning,‚ÄĚ I said. ‚ÄúShe’s having quite a day.‚ÄĚ

The¬†teacher replied with a smile saying, ‚ÄúIt’s OK. We all have those¬†mornings.‚ÄĚ

DD¬†had joined her classmates on the carpet for morning story time. I looked at her smiling¬†face as she found her assigned space and sat between the children who¬†were already seated. It makes me proud to see her assimilate herself into the¬†classroom culture. With all of the problems we have had to get to this point, seeing her happy in this space makes me feel confident about keeping her¬†in public school. It’s a daily struggle, though. For as much as I am happy¬†about her school days, the reservations I have are just as numerous. I took a deep¬†breath in and waved goodbye as I exhaled and turned to walk away.

I¬†checked my phone as I sat in the drivers’ seat and turned on the engine. The radio¬†station has gone to commercial break and the morning anchor is urging all who¬†listen to exercise their right to vote. I listen and reply to the voice I hear¬†through those Bose speakers, ‚ÄúI’m already with ya, sister.‚ÄĚ

Today¬†is Super Tuesday. It is 8:50 a.m. and this super mom is already super tired. At¬†least I didn’t have to travel far to¬†cast my ballot. Let’s¬†get this show on the road‚Ķ if I don’t run out of gas first.

I headed to¬†the church in my neighborhood where I had voted before. There¬†were no sign-wielding, flag-waving, honk-your-horn-for-us volunteers on the¬†road. If I didn’t already know it was an election day, I wouldn’t have even¬†realized it.

I¬†entered the polling place, which also doubled as the main sanctuary, and walked¬†over to the poller who took my driver license and proceeded to search for me in¬†the system.¬†The¬†poll worker quietly gave me my license back and directed me to another worker¬†who gave me a ballot and directions to enter it to be counted. I did so. As I¬†exited I could feel their eyes on me as I walked away with my ‚ÄúI Voted‚ÄĚ sticker.

I am the primary caregiver to a child with special needs. I¬†listen to the candidates degrade each other. I watch the candidates’ actions¬†toward each other. I watch the candidates exploit each other’s differences. They¬†throw rocks and hide their hands. They craft words to puff themselves up even¬†at the expense of someone who they campaign to govern. I hear them in the¬†morning. I see them at noon. I see them at night. I see them, but they do not¬†see me.

I belong to a specific subset of the population you rarely¬†see¬†on the campaign trail. They don’t see the hurt these words cause daily in our¬†lives. They don’t see the fight we undertake just to be included. They can’t possibly understand the¬†effect the programs they cut have on families who depend on them to give¬†our disabled loved ones a decent quality of life. They talk about education but likely cannot fathom the struggle we face¬†in getting an individualized education¬†program (IEP) written effectively to give our children the support they need. And¬†they talk about¬†‚ÄúNo Child Left Behind.‚ÄĚ They bicker over submitting tax returns¬†and how much someone was paid to speak at a convention. I wish they could¬†see my tax returns, or those of any other mom who had to end¬†her career to take care¬†of a child with special needs. Our children aren’t left behind for sure¬†‚ÄĒ¬†but they¬†aren’t readily seen.

You may not see us, but we are here. We are not lazy by any¬†means. We are strong beyond measure. We are advocates and caregivers and tired¬†and frustrated and courageous and invisible. We are not on any stage behind a mic. We are not included in campaign slogans. We are not in memes circulated on social media. We are not a superset of any platform. We¬†may not be¬†primary monetary contributors. It’s Super Tuesday, and I¬†haven’t heard one super word that would help our population. I watch the¬†commercials. I search the Internet. I have found nothing that will make me¬†favor any candidate over another as it concerns my family. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.¬†Yet in some respect, everything they say affects my family in some way.

If I could have, I would have voted ‚ÄúKindness‚Ä̬†for president. It¬†wasn’t on the ballot. Perhaps it should have been. I wonder if it would get the¬†nomination uncontested. We’ll never know.

I’m a Mighty mom. I’m a super mom. It’s Super Tuesday, and if you look real hard¬†you’ll see my cape blowing in the wind.

Image via Thinkstock.

A version of this post originally appeared in¬†LaTaasha’s book, ‚ÄúInclusion Is for the Included.‚ÄĚ

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