Thursday, October 8, 2009

Searching for Inspiration

People with Ds tend to inspire people.

At least that's the way it looks in the media a lot.

I don't know.

Maybe my kid does inspire people. I mean, she's popular enough at her daycare. And at the hospital where she gets her PT. And at the pool where she has AT. And at the farmer's market. Really, I could go on and on. People dig her and I think that's cool.

But what I don't want people to think is that Playette is their mascot. Or that she's a baby-baby. I just want her to be treated how one would treat any of her peers. And if she struggles? Well, let's devise a plan to help her get wherever it is that she needs to be.

I see a lot of inspirational videos. Sometimes I seek them out; sometimes they're sent to me.

A lot of the times I don't like them.


Well, because they tend to center around someone with differing abilities needing other people to treat them differently in order to succeed.

And maybe I'm just the mom of a two-year-old that doesn't get it yet. I can accept that. I'm still green. It's early in the Ds journey for me and maybe I'm still all Pollyanna Sunshine in this area, but I don't want people to let Playette on any team because they feel sorry for her. I want her to earn her spot. And I happen to believe with all of my heart that she has the ability to earn whatever it is she wants to do.

Have you heard/seen the story of Jason McElway? Jason has autism and was (finally) allowed to play in the last basketball game of the season. So, this kid was in the game for all of 4 min and scored 20 points. Why wasn't he playing all the other times? Did no one give him a chance? He was only good for "fetching water and toweling off other people's sweat" (per the video)? He's obviously a gifted athlete, right? Why did no one know this? Or did they? And it wasn't until the last game that they even let him suit up? Come on!

Perhaps they're only giving us part of the story in that clip, but still...

When I was in high school, there was this guy I'll call TJ. In a school not really known for its academics, this guy was on the honor roll. Trust me, in our school, a guy who was dedicated to his studies was kind of a big deal. He also played basketball. He was far from tall, but in almost every game the coach put him in. Right at the end. To nail 3-pointers. That was his role and he knew it. But he was at every practice. He suited up for every game.

So that's the perspective I'm coming from with Jason McElway. I wanted him to be his team's TJ. For more than the final game.

I don't ever want to give people the chance to say:

Let's put Playette in and hope she doesn't make us lose our gigantic lead.


Let's put Playette in and make her think she's really doing something when we've all agreed to refrain from blocking/tackling/defending/trying.

And the crowd goes, "Awwww. Bless her heart."


I don't know what type of Utopian society I'm wishing for, but...that's it. I don't know.

I guess I don't see my kid like that and that's why it bothers me.

Honestly, it makes me feel like a cynic. Like I'm never going to be happy with the current state of affairs. And I guess, in a way, I am...and I'm not. But isn't that how things get better?

I'm not all about raining on parades and sporting events though.

There are some stories I appreciate. It's all about how it's presented.

Like this one. While I'd love to tweak a word or two, this just comes across as sincere and not at all patronizing.

Consider me inspired by Tyler Fitzgerald and Hannah Taylor.


Michelle said...

Here, here!

The last thing in the world I want is for Ruby to become "The Class Pet"

Well said!

Jen L. said...

That's last clip got me a little teary.

Some of the students I've been working with are pretty inspirational. They are just trying to find their way and succeed as best they can. That's all we can hope for no matter what their challenges are.

Maya said...

Yea those videos leave me a little uneasy too. I think people mean well but they do just perpetuate that notion of "special."

It's complicated. But you boiled it down really well.

DownTownDan said...

I wholeheartedly agree. You know that football video that recently made the rounds? I was completely turned off by it. Everyone kept saying "those kids learned a valuable lesson - more valuable than winning." But I don't think they did. I think they learned that people with disabilities can't compete in a meaningful way. I think the coach could have taught them a much more valuable lesson by treating the kid as an active, genuine part of the team. Not for one fake play, but for the entire season. Maybe he would have cost them a game. Or several games. Or maybe he wouldn't - maybe he would have been a decent football player. Too bad we will never find out. But at least that would have been a REAL lesson for everyone - the coaches, players, parents and opponents.

sheree said...

you know I totally agree with you ;)

I did enjoy that video about the boy with autism, but like I tls you yesterday, it was more of the atmosphere that got me so excited. That entire gymnasium knew that boy's story and they were definitely rootng for him. It sucks though that they couldn't have been cheering for him all season :(

Anyway, I don't think you're cynical at all...just keepin' it real which is what I love about you!!

sheree said...

well look at that! I can actually post again!

A Lady Called Amy said...

I don't know that it will happen while I'm alive, or even ever after I die, but it would be a good day when these types of stories don't make the news b/c it's not news, it's just life, and people are accepted for who they are. :-)

Michelle said...

I have such mixed emotions about those type of stories.

On the one hand I'm happy it's a positive news story out there, and everyone interviewed/involved is happy about what just happened I'm happy about that too.

But there is this other part that makes me feel, kinda sad I guess. Especially the sports ones...ok you talked to the opposing coach who talked to the players and they all agreed to let so and so score a TD or make a basket or whatever...but it always happens on the last game of the season, or the points don't count, or the clock isn't really set for game play, or whatever. All of the 'letting' it happen makes me sad, but I guess I should be thankful, in a way, that it does happen at all...cause it's inclusion, in a way if you think about it. Would any of this be happening 20 yrs ago or more?

I guess I feel a lot like you do too.

Evelyn Parham said...

I totally agree with you. My daughter is 3, and I think like you do.

Great post and well said!

Lisa said...

That video with the homecoming king and queen in Michigan was moving. She seemed to understand intuitively the value of "difference", and was so genuinely proud of him and pleased for him. It is hard to look at that one with a critical eye. Did people vote for him out of pity? I don't think so. I think they were sending him a message: We see you. We see that you have had challenges, and that things aren't always easy for you. But you have moved forward anyway, in your own way. And we think you are awesome.

Many parents of differently-abled kids straddle the fence with these types of stories...partly because of our unique perspective and what we see in our own children, and partly because of our perceptions of how others view our children (or disability in general). We see promise and potential, and we want to protect our kids at the same time.

You bring up some great points in this post (not wanting your daughter to be a mascot, not patronizing her, etc.). I am working through many of the same issues, so I don't have any great wisdom on this topic. I go back-and-forth between not wanting Bridget to be treated differently and not wanting her to be judged by outside standards. I flutter between reality and utopia, as we all probably do in most aspects of life.

I mostly just want Bridget to be able to pursue her own dreams in her own unique way and to be valued for who she is. (Which is the same way I feel about all of my other kids).