by Jennifer Senda
When my son was born, I was asked a million questions, like “How will you change his diaper?” or “What if you drop him?” To a first-time mom with lots of anxiety regarding those exact questions, each inquiry was like a dagger to the soul because I had no idea how I was going to handle those things, but I knew I had no choice: they would be handled.
Now I don’t want to deceive you into thinking that I am Supermom. There is no one in the world who fits that title, disabled or not. But I will say this—I handled it. Parenthood has been quite a journey thus far, but I am unwilling to surrender. Tell me it can’t be done, and I will find a way to do it. I am that mule-headed, a quality my son seems to have inherited, and I am glad.
Fast-forward eight years. My son is the coolest person I have ever met. He is inquisitive, full of joy, and very opinionated. He also has ADHD, and if I’m honest, our journey through this process has not been easy. There are a lot of elements to his condition that I am just beginning to understand. He has anxiety which is hard for me to see as mother. A few of his triggers include me because he is aware that the world isn’t as accessible as it should be. Ramps should be everywhere in his opinion, and I am in total agreement. As to whether my son notices a difference between us, I am sure he is fully aware of my disability; it’s kind of impossible to hide. He knows the meaning of words like transfer, manual chair, power chair, and spasms. Is he being exposed to too much? I don’t believe so. He can learn to be patient with himself by witnessing my particular challenges. I try to answer his questions with as much sincerity as is age appropriate. Keep in mind, though, that many children with ADHD have no filter. Redirection is constantly necessary, and both his energy and his questions seem relentless.
I have cerebral palsy, and as a woman who went through 37 weeks of pregnancy with this condition, I can tell you disability is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes, however, the pain and fatigue that often comes with our various conditions can make the average person want to pass out.
That said, however, my son and I are not inspirational. He handles what life has thrown at him with such grace. He is an example and a motivation for me. Yes, he struggles academically, but he pushes through it. Sometimes he is totally unaware that he’s being persistent, but I am. I see him and I am so proud! He is my joy and my heart.
My biggest gift is the privilege of watching my son grow and seeing his personality flourish, despite the IEP meetings, the therapies, the spasms and the lack of access that are seemingly inescapable factors in both our lives.
By the way, I love you, mom and dad! Thank you for not allowing me to surrender to self-pity. Thanks for leading by example. I hope my son learns from me as I learned from you. And to the parents and would-be parents with disabilities out there, thank you for being my people. I have realized that I am not alone in this journey. Reading and listening to your stories has been an amazing educational experience. Thank you.