Sunday, January 27, 2013

What She Said - Disability Politics from a Three Year Old

Yesterday was a big day at our house. Ruby and her mom were off on a 'bonding' adventure and Sadie was staying with us for the same reason. We've had Ruby on her own many times but it's only now that Sadie was expressing an interest in staying with us all by herself. Both Joe and I were a bit nervous as we really wanted it to go well. We did what we could to set up for success. We planned activities that we knew that Sadie would love. We bought fresh strawberries. We picked up two Max and Ruby DVDs as Sadie had told us, a couple visits ago, that they were her "very most favourite" show.

It went surprisingly easy. After doing all that needed or wanted to be done, I curled up on one end of the couch and Sadie curled up on the other. We both were covered in blankets. We watched Max try to get candy apples while Ruby tried to compete in the Rabbit games. Apparently gripping stuff. During the various episodes, Sadie kept a running commentary. It was lovely family time.

At one point Sadie looked over to me and said, "I like you."

She's done this before to both Joe and I. On occasions where she is having a wonderful time, she just stops, turns and makes an announcement of affection. It's really quite touching because you know that she means it.

This time was a bit different because after making the bold statement she returned to the show. After maybe a minute or two she turned and said, "I like your wheelchair too."

I smiled inside and out.

I am one of those who doesn't get these statements ...

I see beyond your disability.

I see you not your wheelchair.

I think we need to see the person not the disability.

I believe that your ability makes your disability irrelevant.

I neither like nor appreciate the sentiment behind anything that is meant to communicate that there is a part of me that needs seeing beyond, any part of me that needs a kind of wilful avoidance.

I am not ashamed of my disability and I don't want you to go to extreme lengths to pretend that my 'personhood' is somehow something that you need to do contortions to see.

I am a disabled person.

or, if you prefer because I don't,

I am a person with a disability.

And that's that.

I don't think it's impossible to see both me and my disability and respect both me and my disability. I don't think it's a requirement that we separate me from my identity as a person with a disability. In fact, I think it's a bit offensive.

If someone said to me ...

I don't think of you as gay.


I see beyond your sexuality.

or says of me

Dave is a person who is gay.

I'd tell them off.

So, the fact is that Sadie, who is now three, can say:

I like you. I like your wheelchair. And in saying these things let me know that all of me is just fine.

Why can't everyone else?


Anonymous said...

I just wanna give her the hugest hug. Both your grandchildren are just lovely inside and out

Louna said...

They're not his grandchildren (I believe they're his nieces, but I'm not sure), but they are indeed lovely! My oldest nephew, at six, does these spontaneous statements of affections a lot, it always makes my heart melt. And it's great that she included Henry, who is, after all, pretty great himself. How's he doing, by the way? Has he recovered?

Dave Hingsburger said...

Maddy and Louna, I am happy to consider them grandchildren even though we are not related - there are many ways to be family, this is just another one. The kids call us "Dave" and "Joe" but relate to us like grandparents - and we return that kindness.

Anonymous said...

I think that it's a great lack that I don't have children in my life right now. My own children are in their 20's so don't really count, and no grandchildren yet.

How wonderful that you have their company and that they have yours. They are growing into wonderful young ladies.

Thank you for sharing this with us.


Anonymous said...

I think we're too busy Dave trying to grow up that we forget the wisdom of children.