I am not a newbie to the world of disability.
I have disabilities myself. I have tons of friends with disabilities. I have worked in the disability arena. In fact, I was working at UC Berkeley – the home of the disability rights movement – when I had the amniocentesis that told me that my daughter would be coming with an extra chromosome.
You would think I would have all of this down pat, these pieces regarding parenting a child with a disability other than my own, but I don’t. It’s an ever-ongoing learning curve.
First, I had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that I wasn’t disciplining her the same as I was my sons. I was honestly surprised to learn that I somehow thought she wasn’t going to understand – or that she wasn’t capable of – cleaning up her own split milk.
Then there was the time that I was flabbergasted because I found that she was trying to connect her fishing game to a charging system. And there was a time (which I didn’t write about) in which I realized that she was actually playing minecraft, and understood it.
The clues have been there, and she’s been growing up and coming in to her self, but somehow this past weekend, I was absolutely stunned by what happened.
And what happened was this:
We were cleaning the house.
I gave each child a chore list, and told them what was on each of their lists and went over what I expected from them. On Moxie’s list, I had “put away laundry,” assuming that, as I usually do, I would go downstairs and take the clothes out of the dryer, then bring them up in the hamper. Then Moxie and I would fold and put away the clothes.
I got busy with my own list after I explained their chores lists to them.
After about an hour, Moxie came up to me and told me she was done with her list.
I thought that meant that she was done with everything except the clothes, so I said, “okay! let me go and get the laundry and we can put it away!”
“I did it,” she said.
“I did it!” Moxie repeated, enthusiastically smiling and gesturing broadly towards the dresser and hangers.
I took a closer look and gasped: Moxie had gone downstairs, took ALL OF THE CLOTHES out of the dryer, into the hamper and carried it upstairs (this was a big hamper!). She then put everyone’s clothes away: mine were all on my bed, the boys’ were in their respective drawers. Uniforms were hanging up, as is our custom.
I was STUNNED. And humbled.
This little girl will apparently always keep me on my toes, learning and growing.
What I know so far in this 8 year journey in parenting a child with an intellectual, developmental disability is that I need to keep a hold on my expectations for her, and remember how very capable she really is.
Sometimes I think the biggest challenge in raising her is in overcoming my own preconceptions about what she can and cannot do, and to push through things I don’t understand.
Like, she can’t physically say the word, “laundry,” but she sure does know how to take things out of the dryer, lug them up a flight of stairs and put everything away correctly. It’s difficult for me to reconcile those pieces; I don’t have a framework for this, it’s all new for me.
And that’s all I really have to say about this today.
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Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.