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Why I Intervened When My Daughter Won the Resiliency Award

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We found out today that my daughter won the monthly resiliency award for her grade. It will be announced at the school assembly tomorrow morning. My parent-heart should be swelling with pride at this news, and for sure that feeling is there. But the pride is coupled with a pit in my stomach that I just can’t shake.

The award presentation always starts with the teacher giving a speech about the student before they are named for the first time in front of the whole school. It’s an exciting moment — the students pay attention to the details of the reasons for the honor, and try to guess which one of their peers earned the award this month. For the students, it’s great anticipation and fun. For me, I’m dreading what is going to be said. And this is exactly why I had to intervene behind the scenes with a note to her teacher.

You see, I had to make sure that whatever speech they give about my daughter won’t include any framing of her brother with a disability and his medical needs as obstacles she had to overcome.

This is the kind of well-meaning ableism that we fight every day as a family. My daughter’s brother and his disability are not burdens — even in the hard weeks (the ones with surgeries and hospitalizations). Every one of us will experience disability directly or indirectly, temporarily or permanently, at some point in our lives. We work hard as parents to teach our kids that being close-up to disability doesn’t make her, or any of us, a superhero, or a saint, or people to be pitied. It makes us human. Our family is who we are, just like any other family. Having a sibling with disabilities is a visible part of her identity. It is definitely shaping the person she is and is becoming, but it isn’t the only part. As she grows up and eventually finds her own way in the world, it won’t always be such a visible part of who she is. Time will tell if it is a part she chooses to share – on her own terms.

There are a lot of great things about my kids. My daughter in particular is empathetic, and resourceful. She is learning to advocate for herself and articulate her needs beautifully. Maybe that’s because she is the sibling of a kid with disabilities. Maybe it’s because we’re living through a pandemic. Maybe it’s because she has awesome parents (just kidding). Maybe it’s because who she is right now is the sum of ten years of diverse life experiences that she’s piecing together in her own unique way. She’s resilient in her own right. And we can’t wait to recognize our girl for all the amazing things about HER.

Photo credit: 1236117540/Getty Images

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