It’s Not All in the Family

 

Three Generations – my mom, my son, and I. 2015

“It still isn’t easy for me to describe myself as a disabled woman. For a long time I didn’t think a disabled woman sat on the ground pulling out weeds. Or played handball with her son. Or helped her elderly neighbor carry in groceries. But I do all those things. Because being a disabled woman doesn’t look the same for every woman. And it doesn’t look the same for me each day.” 

That paragraph is taken from “It’s Not All in the Family,” a personal essay I wrote that was published in the fall issue of Breath and Shadow. You can read the essay by clicking here.

A Bit of Perfection

My favorite part of last week was a completely unplanned activity.

A spontaneous way for my son and I to spend a part of our afternoon.

My twelve-year-old son, a week away from entering the 7th grade, allowed me to paint his hands and feet.

The last time we made his hand and footprints was two years ago. I’ve asked on-and-off during these past two years, and Ryan usually declines.

But this particular afternoon he agreed.

And I was delighted.

I’ve been painting Ryan’s hands and feet since he was a baby. I used to press his little palm into a large ink pad and that’s how he would “sign” greeting cards for family members. 

And don’t forget, I’m a former teacher. I loved painting my students’ hands for all sorts of fun activities. Hands make great leaves for flowers, reindeer antlers, and turkeys! (My first year of teaching, another kindergarten teacher shared with me a valuable tip – add some dish soap to the paint. It makes it so much easier for kids to clean their hands and for the paint to come out of any clothes it may accidentally get on.)

Others might see our painting time as a rather simple activity, but it felt magical.

I was in awe. 

I marveled at the size of Ryan’s hands and feet. The way the human body just knows how to do things – like grow. Bones and skin and muscles. It’s amazing.

The world outside our home is scary right now. But for those precious moments when we sat on the floor making handprints and footprints, everything felt perfect. 

10 Absolute Promises

Ryan, age 3. Safety first. Helmets have always been the rule; even when Ryan first sat on his tricycle in our living room!

“Can you promise me that there won’t be any more?”

That was my son’s question as we got ready for bed last Friday night.  (For my out-of-California readers, we had a couple of big earthquakes here last week.)

As I gave Ryan his nightly hugs and kisses, he asked me to promise him that everything was back to normal.  I couldn’t promise that.  

He asked me to promise him that if there were any after-shocks they would be too small to feel.  I couldn’t promise that.  

But I did promise Ryan the most important thing my husband and I have always promised him – to do everything we can to always keep him healthy and safe.

Throughout the night, I peeked in and watched Ryan sleep.  And I thought about how much of his life, and my life, is out of my control.  

I can’t make promises about earthquakes.  

But, I absolutely can make these promises to my son:

 

1.  I promise to always regard you with a mix of awe and wonder.

2.  I promise to always have chocolate in the house. 

3.  I promise that we will never run out of toilet paper.

4.  I promise that our family will always have money to buy books.

5.  I promise I will always cry at certain parts of certain movies (splash-down in Apollo 13 and the” there’s-no-bathroom-for-me-here” scene in Hidden Figures).

6.  I promise I will always yell at the TV when we watch basketball games.

7.  I promise to always attend your school functions including performances, conferences, and Back-to-School nights.

8.  I promise to always print out pictures, maintain our family photo albums, and periodically update the pictures on our refrigerator.

9.  I promise I will always feel colder than you and will annoy you when I ask you, again, if you’re warm enough.

10.  I promise that long after you’ll probably want them, I will still always have an endless supply of hugs and kisses.

 

My Son Is An Only Child

Our Beautiful Family

It happened again.

A couple of weeks ago, while at the checkout line, the friendly Ralphs cashier told me I needed to have at least one more child.

She said this in front of my son.

This time around, the cashier is someone we chat with each time we see her.  She is warm and friendly with my son.  She comments on how tall he’s gotten and asks how he’s doing in school.  

But this was crossing the line.

While she scanned my groceries and I bagged them, I tried my usual answer.  “We’re blessed with Ryan.”

But she didn’t let it go.  “You need to give him a brother or a sister.  You never know what could happen to you or your husband.  You don’t want to leave him alone.”

I felt a physical reaction, as if I had been punched in the stomach.  I know this.  It is one of my great fears.

As we loaded our groceries into the car, I spoke to my son about this conversation.  “I really like it when we see Dora, but I really didn’t like what she said to us today,” I told Ryan.

I continued.  “You know each family makes their own decisions about children.  How many to have, or if they’ll have any at all.  And each family’s decision is right for them.  Our decision is right for us.  Daddy and I feel so lucky that our family is the way it is.”

“I know,” Ryan said.

But like I began this post, this isn’t the first time a supermarket cashier has commented on our one-child family status.  And even though I’ve dealt with this before, it doesn’t get any easier.

Click here to be re-directed to RoleReboot.org  to read my personal essay, “When A Stranger Told Me I Needed To Have a Second Child.