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The 'Fakebooking' Days When Your Child Has a Disability

My “on this day” on Facebook recently greeted me with the following:

It’s a funny old thing: denial. The worst kind of lie in a way. One to yourself. Something I definitely (clearly going by this reminder) had a sprinkling of in the early days. Back when Brody was a toddler and health professionals were ignoring my concerns. That niggling feeling was always there, of course. But when so many people imply you’re an overthinking first-time mum (and I admittedly am an over-thinker in every sense of the word) and the stereotype that boys are “just lazy” is thrown your way more times than you care to remember, sometimes you go with it to make yourself feel better. Even though you just know — it’s bullshit.

The comments on this photo were full of friends (and cliché comments) essentially agreeing with me. But one comment I’ve always remembered. Someone asked how old Brody was and said a friend of theirs with a child of a similar age needed physiotherapy. I remember it stinging. A lot. Because I was denial posting. I was “Fakebooking,” as it were. Convincing myself that everything was fine. Going along with that “lazy boy” stereotype that I now loathe.

Didn’t this person get the memo that I needed reassurance?

Understandably, no.

When this post made its way back to me, I felt a mixture of emotions. Disappointed in myself that I’d actually once used that annoying cliché. Guilty that I referred to Brody as lazy when I know he is anything but. Sad at the memory of battling the truth. Because back then, the truth hurt. I just wanted Brody to be like all the other children I knew — “typical.”

I was told boys were “just lazy” so many times, either with the intention of reassuring me or because I was viewed as a paranoid mum, that on that particular day, I looked at Brody leaning against that sign, seeing he was now too tall for the baby and toddler section in soft play, took a photo and went with that statement — to make myself feel better.

Facebook reminders of Brody’s early days occasionally have snippets of my denial. Photos of him doing things he’ wasn’t really doing.

Sitting at a table and chair set we bought him that he just wanted to push over and couldn’t really sit at.

Weaning when he couldn’t actually eat finger food until he was somewhere between the age of 2 and 3.

Painting when he hated the feel of paint — even though his repulsed face is obvious to me in this photo (I didn’t know about sensory processing disorder back then).

Looking at a book, which I had just turned around because it was upside-down before I took the photo.

Having a picnic, when he was barely interested in the food and I had to be super quick to make sure he didn’t fall off the bench.

Playing on a climbing frame we later had to get rid of because he had (and still has) no danger awareness and because he fell off of the top.

And unwrapping presents. Something he wasn’t interested in remotely until he was at least 4 years old.

I don’t know who I was trying to convince. Myself or my “audience.”

Back then, before we knew Brody was disabled, before doctors took notice and before I could accept his future would be different to the one I imagined when I first held him, I suppose I just wanted to cling on to the idea of a typical future. One that was easier for him. Just for a little while. Even though he was perfect. He is perfect.

And the future is unwritten.

There is a quote I love by Mandy Hale. She says that: “happiness is letting go of what you think your life should look like and celebrating everything that it is.”

Brody is — and always has been — exactly who he is meant to be. Our perfectly imperfect beautiful boy. I always knew that, but before I had confirmation from doctors that he was disabled, I thought that perhaps I was just imagining things. When doctors began to listen and I finally knew that my gut instinct was right, I could accept with certainty that Brody’s life would be different to the one I had imagined when I first held him in my arms.

And of course, different isn’t a bad thing — and neither is disability.

Brody has taught us there is happiness in the simplest of things. Love and happiness are not measured by milestones or ability and they never should be. The magic he creates and how he enriches our lives is always easy to capture in a photograph. I can never fake that. Because he does so just by being him.

Little boy with disability full of joy standing in the middle of a lake

Follow this journey at Brody, Me & GDD.