As a young woman, I was one of those who bought into the fantasy of “Prince Charming and the white horse.” He would ride into my life and shield my heart from all heartache or pain.
As the years have passed, the thought of the ‘Prince Charming Fallacy” widely subscribed to by females, young and old alike, makes me laugh! I know that fairy tales don’t really come true in the traditional sense because I have Cerebral Palsy. This is a disability that has a wide range of severity from mild to severe with the degree of disability largely determined by the specific location of damage to the brain. The attitudes, perceptions and visions from the people in the nucleus of the disabled person’s universe can have long reaching consequences. They very often set the height of the bar for the disabled person’s views of themselves and their ability to perform and achieve. If you believe that they will, then they will! If you believe they won’t, they won’t! Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that your child will rise from the wheelchair and walk independently if you just believe –but you can get out of the way. Have expectations and open your mind to the possibilities that they will achieve the goals that are set.
Growing up in my family’s house, I had no idea that I was different from anyone else. I was treated like the rest of my siblings. I had chores to perform: washing dishes, ironing, cleaning the bathroom and keeping my room neat. I also fought and played with my brothers and sisters as well as our neighborhood playmates. I was expected to make excellent grades in school. Being the class clown or having a bad day was a luxury that I could not afford. My Grandmother would say, “…If you clown in school, people are going to think that you’re retarded…that you don’t know any better!” That was all she had to say because I didn’t want anyone to think of me in that way. This was especially true when I began to go through puberty – coming of age and noticing – and liking — boys. Throughout my adolescence and beyond, I was taught to be independent and to carry myself as a lady.
As I made my way through my twenties, a strange dichotomy developed among my friends. The possibility of my self-sufficiency as an adult and the prospect of me becoming a full functioning parent never occurred to them. When my daughter was born, people outside of my inner circle of family and friends actually thought that I was incapable of taking care of her – i.e. bathing, dressing, feeding, or combing her hair. Shortly after bringing her home, I can recall sneakin’ to the bathroom so that I could give her a bath and do all of the other motherly duties. Some associates later told me that their initial concern was because of my proclivity to fall. I don’t always have good balance. Thus endangering both of us.
I also became aware that some people thought that my child was conceived as a result of implied sexual attack. This cut deep and still does, all these years later. It meant that I was void of the same wants, needs, and desires as other women. I have found that this ‘…pregnancy by way of unwanted sex’ philosophy is a common belief about disabled mothers. Being disabled is not a death sentence. Perhaps the greatest fear is that they shouldn’t be a part of society. It is the recognition that they were wrong all these years about our ability to succeed and excel.
Anyone who’s a single parent can tell you that it is not easy. I suspect that being a parent is not easy even if there are two parents present in the household. However, here we are 15 years later. It’s definitely not easy but worth all the blood, sweat and tears that flowed. We’ve had hurdles to overcome. We are on the other side of the mountain. Don’t misunderstand. My daughter is still having growing pains but we’re learning that we are more than just mother and daughter. We are people too! We make mistakes big and small. That is a part of being human beings. I am very appreciative of the family and friends we do have along on this journey with us.
On the topic of dating, it’s not easy! Like any other parent that loves their children, I don’t just let anyone into my daughter’s life. It takes time. Not everyone deserves to meet your children. The privilege must be earned. Add to that the extra challenge of having a physical disability. Some suitors may feel that ‘ a disability is a disability is a disability.” Au contraire! In my case anyone whom I meet, date, or marry has to be a strong man and know himself. While I’ve learned to overlook the stares and comments, he may not be able to deal with it day after day. Not everyone can! Some men may have friends and family that discourage them from dating me. They may make comments such as “Wow, she’s beautiful! It’s too bad she walks like that!” Or “…you ought to be ashamed of yourself for being with her, taking advantage of that poor girl!”
The worst kinds of men are the ones that scream at me as if I’m deaf. These people think that just because I’m physically disabled, I am also mentally challenged too. Some just want to get into my pants to see if I’m any different from other women.
There have been some men — and I use that term loosely — that have looked at me and said, “I don’t want to date you because I see nothing but responsibility”. For me, that is a positive thing because I can eliminate the jerks out of my life.
By now, I am a woman in my early forties, looking good and feeling great! I know my self worth, my power, and my beauty. Am I a Diva? YES, I am. I’m desirable? Most definitely. Am I disabled? Well… the truth is I have Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy doesn’t have me!