The great joy of being a parent is celebrating your children’s success. Every developmental milestone reached by our babies is carefully recorded in scrapbooks. We save report cards, trophies, ribbons, medals and all the wonderful trinkets our children bring to us for their brilliance in academics, sports, or civic clubs. We share their work with neighbors, grandparents, even subject our friends to our bragging through annual Christmas letters. It is a joy to watch our children succeed.
This is no less of a joy for families raising children who suffer with disabilities. The only difference is that we measure their successes differently, perhaps with baby steps. And our children’s accomplishments just don’t seem all that interesting to the rest of the world. Those who love to hear about a soccer team that won the local championship simply don’t understand my pride in watching Quincy learn a simple gesture that indicates she needs a drink. And how can Quincy mastering a feather switch hold up to the accomplishment of a child who won the local spelling bee? I would argue it holds up better.
By watching Quincy and my other children I have learned that she works 1000 times harder than any other child her age to accomplish the smallest task. She is more patient, more determined, braver and tougher than any 14 year-old who can ride a dirt bike or play soccer. And nothing bothers me more than when someone watches something that Quincy can do, like ski or float in a pool or even smile at a joke, and say “Isn’t that cute?”. She is not a baby and it’s not cute. It’s commendable and wonderful and exciting…it is not simple and cute.
Please understand that the pride of parents who raise disabled children is no less than the pride of the parents of normally functioning kids. We want to share their accomplishments and have others rejoice in their success. But we usually don’t…we sit quietly and listen to others talk about their kids and we say little. Not because we don’t have anything to share, but because we know that unless you walk in our world you probably cannot appreciate what Quincy has overcome. Most people look at her for what she cannot do…we see her for all that she has become. And, in my mind she deserves a gold medal, an induction to a Hall of Fame, a trip to the White House and a full-ride scholarship to an Ivy League school already.