Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Undefined Sweetie

"Sweetie, do you want to get dressed up and wear a dress or skirt because it's Thanksgiving? Or do you just want to wear regular jeans and a shirt?"

"I don't care. You choose."

I picked out a cute "dressed up" outfit, complete with coordinating shirt and skirt and pretty blue leggings. She got many compliments and, I think, felt good about how she looked.

But, honestly? She really doesn't care about things like clothes. Dress her up - she's happy. Dress her down - she's happy. S'all good.

Which, you know, is good!

Apparently, though, she also doesn't care about presenting herself appropriately when she is dressed up.

- "It's not 'dress-up' day, Sweetie."

- "Sweetie! Sit like a lady!"

- "Sweetie! Is that how you're supposed to sit on the couch when you're wearing a skirt?"

It seems like we were constantly reminding her to sit like the young lady she is. Her response?

"I'm not a lady! I'm a half tomboy."

At the end of our visit with Grammy and Grampy, when just we 3 and Grammy and Grampy were left, this whole subject exploded into a full-out discussion where the following points were discussed:

* Grammy used to be a tomboy.

* Arguments from Sweetie that "this" half of her (the right half, for instance) was a tomboy (and therefore 'allowed' to be messy) and the other half of her was girl.

* Just because you don't like certain things that girly girls typically like, and you do like certain things that boys typically like, doesn't mean you are or aren't a girly girl or a tomboy.

* What's wrong with being a girl anyway? Girls can do anything!

* No matter what you say about yourself, you still have to be decent and present yourself appropriately.

* Why does it matter so much to Sweetie to define herself as a tomboy anyway?

Afterwards... I don't know. At least she sat up. I think. It was a long day, and it was time for us to move on to the next Turkey Day Celebration.

On the way over to my parents', well... I'm sorry, but I couldn't let it go. I had to ask - "Why do you think it's so important to define who you are, Sweetie? For a DI kid, I sure am surprised you don't know by now that you are so much more than "just" a tomboy who happens to like some girlie things as well." (thus the "half tomboy" label) "What are some other things you could say about you?"

"I'm a girl who likes to play Legos who has Lyme Disease."

"Ooookaaayyy." (Daddy chimes in) "Yes, that's true. But that doesn't define who you are! You are creative and smart and fun and funny and crafty and in DI and..."

"Most ladies love to shop. But I hate shopping! Most women, you could say, love chocolate. I could take it or leave it. Most ladies loooovvvve shoes. I don't care at all about shoes! But I wouldn't say I'm a tomboy either. I'm me, and that's great! Celebrate who you are, Sweetie! Don't limit yourself with labels and definitions. Be YOU! Be Sweetie!"


In prepping for writing this post, I Googled quotes on defining oneself and being true to yourself. And I was surprised to see just as many quotes advising people TO define themselves as opposed to NOT defining/labeling themselves. And I suppose I see "the definers" point as well. Many of these quotable people were suggesting that one should define himself rather than be defined by society or what others think. When put like that - yes, agreed.

I also read that to give the advice "Be Yourself" is about the worst advice you can give to some people. I agree, it is rather half-hearted and vague advice. Just thinking back to high school yearbook signing... harkens of "never change" and "stay you." I mean, what did we mean by this? Nothing. It was just something to write that "sounded good." I think better advice might be to be the best version of yourself you can be. That way you are always reaching, always striving, always allowing for change and growth. Whereas to "be yourself," in its own way, is somewhat limiting and doesn't necessarily require you to grow into yourself - you're already there.

So, no, Sweetie. Daddy and I are not telling you to "be yourself." But we are challenging you to discover, appreciate and love being YOU! YOU are still growing, learning, experimenting, dreaming, creating. YOU are still working on your self, as all kids are. As all people should be, no matter their age. Your self is an ever-changing being, lead by your passions and interests, environment and beliefs, and more. Your self is someone YOU can and should always be working on to master...without ever actually mastering, as no human is ever perfect. YOU are full of knowledge and challenges, light and dark, creativity and questions, and so on. You be YOU! And don't let your self or anyone else ever tell you you can't be!

"Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!" - Dr. Seuss

Thursday, November 01, 2012

They Probably Were Just Shocked Silent by my Awesome Costume

After my last post of complete nonsense (puhleese! Who gives a flying fig about our TV viewing habits anyway), I thought today I'd try something a little more heady.

As in, it's all in my head. I know...

So the other day Sweetie and I were around a group of people that I'm around a lot and she's never been. Granted, I do not really claim to know these people, as we don't really talk to each other much. But, let's just say, any of these people would almost certainly recognize me in a different setting, and I them.

And it's not that I don't want to talk to them. It's just, shall we say, rather cliquey there and I'm pretty much one of the outsiders. If spoken to, I'm friendly, of course. Just, all in all, they and I don't have a ton in common, which is okay.

At any rate, I had to bring Sweetie with me to this place because of scheduling issues and lack of childcare. Fine. But I was thinking, in the back of my mind, that maybe Sweetie's presence would actually be a bit of an icebreaker. That, and the fact that I - the quiet one - was dressed up like a big yellow spelling bee!

I have nothing against this group of people and would be happy to get to know them. I'm just not a good instigator of conversation when they are clearly paired up in teams of existing friends. I thought, perhaps, this would get something started.

Certainly someone would at the very least say hi to Sweetie. Ask her her name? Maybe tell me they liked my costume? Possibly ask me what I was if they didn't quite get it? (what's not to get?) Wouldn't you think? Well, I thought, anyway.

Annnnddd... the answer is "no." They would not. Nothing. Yes, I got some people to look at me, presumably to see what my costume was (as some of them were dressed up too.) But I got no comments, at all - good, bad or indifferent. And no one breathed one breath of a word to Sweetie. At all. I think I saw some people look at her, then me, and therefore, I guess, figure out for themselves that she was my daughter. But no one said a word. (Full discloser - I will say there were a couple people I approached for other reasons, thus engaging them in brief dialogues, and of course they both acknowledged and liked my costume and were happy to meet Sweetie. But all the many others? Eh. Not so much. Couldn't have cared less, in fact.)

All this set up to say... this situation made me think. What if some of these people were surprised to see that I had a daughter? What if they were even shocked that I - the one who clearly has some sort of physical disability - not only have what appears to be a healthy, "normal" daughter but was able to have her in the first place? What if some of them were even disgusted that I would selfishly go through with a pregnancy, thus putting my unborn child at risk of having the same disability I have - whatever it is - or possibly even worse?! What if?

Not to say that ANY of these people were, in fact, thinking this AT ALL! I am not saying that they were. I have no idea what they were thinking about she and I, if anything. In fact, far be it from me to even presume these particular people, or any one member of the group therein, was even giving me and/or Sweetie any amount of head space at all. It's just that, I got into my own head space about the situation and got on this bender of "what ifs."

Thankfully, I have never personally come across anyone - that I'm aware of - who has been anything but happy to meet me and Sweetie. I have to say not one person ever has acted cruelly toward me or her because they were on their high horse of "disabled people should not have children." Everywhere we go, people are nothing but polite to us. "Normal," even, which is the way it should be. Perhaps, if anything, I may have met a person here or there who is happily surprised for me that I went through a pregnancy and now have this amazing, physically able, bright and creative daughter. But no one, to my face anyway, has ever been the exact opposite of that.

But - I realize that there are, in fact, people out there with this sad viewpoint. And this situation she and I were in the other night brought it forefront to my mind. What would I do if I ever did meet someone who was vehemently against disabled people - and maybe, more specifically, disabled women - having children. What would I say? How would I react?

First of all - I honestly don't know what I'd do. I think my gut reaction would be shock that I was meeting someone like this who had the nerve to get in my face about it. Then I would probably get in their face a bit with a comeback pointing out how obviously fine, even GREAT, Sweetie turned out - "isn't she lucky?" And then... well, I don't really think I'd waste much breath on this person who I really don't need to explain myself to at all. But, I do know for myself and Hubby that we actually thought a great deal about the possibility of my carrying a disabled child while pregnant and what did we think about that? I'll tell you what we thought about that!

We thought, what better parents for a disabled child to be born to than a set where one of the parents actually lives a, shall we say, "compromised" life?! I know first hand what it feels like to grow up as a disabled person in a family of able-bodied people. I know first hand what it feels like to be encouraged to do and try and live the best life I can, despite any physical limitations I may have. I wanted to roller skate? My parents let me try. I wanted to ski? My parents let me try. I wanted to wear certain kinds of shoes because they were fashionable, but not easily able to fit around my leg braces? My parents bought me a pair and let me see for myself if I could successfully wear them or not. My big brothers teased me and took care of me, just like any other siblings treat their younger sisters. In a nut shell, I did not grow up feeling "different," only loved. And I knew that, if Hubby and I were lucky enough to be blessed with a disabled child ourselves, that we would be excellent at it! We would be the perfect fit!

But, luckily, we ended up with Sweetie. Physically able, mentally strong, totally GREAT Sweetie. Yes, we are lucky parents indeed.

Just like we would have been lucky to raise a less "fortunate" child.

So many couples who want children are, for whatever reason, unable to successfully establish or complete a pregnancy. But we did. No matter the outcome, we would have been one of the lucky ones.

And so, might I say, would the child be lucky to have us. Sweetie is lucky to have us. She was meant for us. We are the perfect fit.

I am so happy I have never run into anyone whom I've felt I've had to explain my reasons for having a child to because I knowingly put my unborn child at such great risk. Maybe one or more of the people she and I were around the other night were thinking just this. Or maybe not! It really doesn't matter at all. They just got me thinking, that's all.

Yes - I put my unborn child at risk... of being loved too much, no matter what, and having the best parents and family around.

However could I have done such a thing?