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Why I'm Grateful For My Daughter's Grit

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Sometimes our life is filled with many extraordinary circumstances that are unrelatable to many families, but then there are moments, like tonight, that prove we are in many ways just like every other family out there, and Olivia is just like every other 7-year-old.

The kids had been playing on the Wii prior to dinner, each of them taking turns being Mario or Luigi because when you have three kiddos and only two remotes, you do your best to minimize the possibility of fighting erupting in your living room.

When I told them it was time to put away the game because supper was ready, Craig and Olivia were in the middle of their turn, working with Kameron to defeat one of the levels in the mushroom world (definitely not the official name, but they all look like mushroom worlds to me).

I gave them a five minute warning while dishing up dinner, and I could hear complaints coming from Olivia, which sounded like a series of annoyed groans and squeals. Like most 7-year-olds, she loves video games and doesn’t like to turn them off when told.

When the game was shut off, she got herself riled up into what I thought would become a temper fit. Immediately I told her if she was going to act this way, she would need to have a time out in her bedroom until her behavior changed and there would be no more Wii the rest of the evening. I asked her, “Are we all done with this behavior?” and proceed to hold up my right and left hands (right hand means yes, and left hand means no). Olivia scanned both hands with her eyes and chose no. I said, “Excuse me, but that is unacceptable. I think you meant to say yes.” Again she looked to my left hand and then shot the biggest dirty look directly at me.

So usually by now I think most parents would be mad their 7-year-old was challenging them, but I wasn’t. You know why? Olivia was acting like a 7-year-old and this was her letting me know she was miffed with me. Big deal, right? Seven-year-olds. Damn straight this was a big deal!

In the past, Olivia would have responded differently. S has grown so much this last year, developing strong communication skills and a distinct behavioral maturity typical of her age. Her ability to beautifully communicate her displeasure of having to put away her game, using verbal indicators, nonverbal facial cues and eye gaze was amazing! In that moment, I had an incredibly deep respect for her. I was so proud I wanted to cry, but didn’t because it wouldn’t have been fair to her.

Olivia is often treated or spoken to differently because she has a disability. People will speak patronizing to her, often assuming she doesn’t understand. Children sometimes dismiss her, or don’t include her in activities going on around them. How she is treated every day within society is determined how others perceive a child with disabilities.

As her mother, I do the best I can to educate and advocate equality and acceptance on her behalf, but the reality is, I can’t control or change everything that happens in her environment. I can, however, provide her with an environment within our family where she is treated equal to her siblings, accepted for who she is, where her voice is heard and where she will always be loved, taught respect and be respected.

Originally published: May 7, 2018
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