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Maya's Parenting Mistake on the 'Speechless' Finale Is One I've Made, Too

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Wednesday’s “Speechless” season finale made me cry. I find this is the case almost every episode, despite it being a comedy show. Little comments or scenarios always hit close to home. As someone who parents two kids with disabilities, I often want to say, “Yes! I live that, too!” or “Yes! My kid has said something very similar to that!” Seeing these truths portrayed on TV feels a little bit empowering as a parent. And sometimes it feels like I am looking at my own mistakes, mirrored by Maya DiMeo, the main character’s mom.

This season, JJ made a film and submitted it to several film competitions. In the finale, we find out he was nominated for two of them. JJ says, “They picked me for me. Making movies has finally given me a way for people to see me, not the chair.”

Spoiler to follow:

Except that is not the case. At the first event, JJ realizes the only reason they picked him was because he is disabled. The organizers had not even watched his film. We soon find out his mom, Maya, though well-intentioned, wrote a long letter to every film competition where JJ submitted his film explaining JJ has a disability. This is when JJ makes his heartbreaking comment: “All anyone sees is the chair.”

JJ thought they picked him for his talent, but he was the “disability token” at one of the competitions. He was treated condescendingly because disability attitudes in our society still continue to be primarily ignorance ad pity.

The thing is, I’ve been Maya. I am Maya. I fight so hard for my kids. I fight relentlessly. Just like JJ is aware Maya is the person who spends her life fighting to make his better, my kids know that about me, too.

But sometimes I fight so hard for my kids I forget there are situations where I have to take a step back and stop fighting. I have to let my kids take the lead, and I have to ask them, “What do you want me to do?” And I have to be OK with the fact that sometimes the answer will be, “Nothing.” I have to be OK with the fact that sometimes my non-involvement is the best thing I can do for my kids.

I know I have gone overboard. I know I have disclosed my kids’ disabilities when doing so was not necessary.

My kids are preteens. The older they get, the more they want privacy, and the more they appreciate a mother who doesn’t seem derailed by overwhelming advocacy efforts.

I believe Maya learned her lesson, and I hope by watching this episode I become more aware of my own choices and actions.

After all, I want my kids to be seen for who they are and not defined solely by their disability.

Image via “Speechless” Facebook page

Originally published: March 22, 2018
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