Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Misconceptions about disability

Twice recently people have inquired about Melody, our cat with cerebellar hypoplasia. Once it was the speech therapist - she watched Melody stumble in from the bedroom and said, "How does that cat get from one side of the house to the other every day... well, I guess she's used to it...?"

(Which was hilarious in itself because it's less than 20 feet from her bed in the bedroom to her food bowl in the kitchen, and her litter box is in the bathroom in between them. She doesn't do stairs, so her available territory is actually very, very small.)

And then the Early Intervention teacher said, as she saw Melody come out a few days later, "Oh, there's Melody. How is she doing? Is she feeling okay?"

Whenever someone shows concern about Mel, I always get enormous glee out of answering, "Oh, she's the healthy one. She's no trouble at all. It's the other two that give me problems and are sick all the time." And then I laugh at the shock and confusion on their faces.

Cerebellar hypoplasia is a lot like cerebral palsy - it's a single instance of brain damage, usually in utero, followed by a potentially long, healthy life (depending on the cat's living environment). Some cats with CH have heart defects, and some are incontinent, but Melody has neither of those. She's just a healthy, normal cat, with the personality of your average cat and the common sense of one too, whose muscle control is very poor and who stumbles when she walks and can't coordinate all four legs well enough to jump. She's easy. She never bolts out the front door, and she never eats the pizza I forgot I left on the counter.

The other two, however, are on a special diet because of their IBS. If either one of them eats commercial cat food, they get very, very ill. Plus, Riley has all sorts of behavior problems and food issues as a result of her abdominal discomfort, and she seems utterly convinced that she's starving to death.

Yeah, Melody is definitely not the poor, poor sick kitty in this family. And I will laugh at you endlessly if you think otherwise. :)

That's all I wanted to post about - just a post about my cats. If this post had been about kids with disabilities, it might have been a keeper. But it's not. Just cats.

Okay, I'll write about something else too.

AwesomeCloud and I went to the library today. We overheard two librarians talking about one's granddaughter. "She's an only child, and she doesn't like it at all."

Doesn't like being an only child? Hmm. Seems to me they're doing it wrong. Siblings are great - I have two and I loved growing up with them - but if you only have the one child to begin with, and you're not giving her a rich enough life to satisfy her, you're missing a golden opportunity. You can life an interesting, enriching life... and take the kid along.

That's the number one reason why I keep thinking of our Child #2 as a "maybe." With one, we've had to make a few modifications to our lifestyle, but it's still essentially the same lifestyle. Everyone always says that when you become a parent, you look back on your old life... especially if you have your child later in life, after spending 10 or 20 years enjoying an adult lifestyle. Not us. We find a way to accommodate the kid! Why wouldn't we? There's so much stuff in the world to discover and experience and learn, and he should learn it too. Learning and experiencing the world now only saves him time later. When he's a little bit older and wondering how to find his place in the world, he'll already know what the world is like. He won't waste his adolescence in an ignorant, fearful haze, like I did, afraid to take even the tiniest step out into the world because I was so sure I was going to crash and burn in that horrible, alien place. And what do you know, that's exactly what happened to me. I crashed. I burned. I floundered, struggled, and rejected numerous opportunities to succeed in life because all opportunities looked equally dangerous to me. Some kids entering adulthood do better than me... most... but think of what would happen if the opposite were true. Think of raising a child as a citizen of the world right from the start. Imagine exposing your child to adulthood for his entire life. So that when he finally becomes an adult, it's old hat.

You can do that with an only child.

I also found a parenting book called "Bringing Up Geeks" which seems to be worth a better look. I wasn't going to read any more parenting books, but my kid's a geek being raised by geeks, so apparently I'm the target audience. I may even be past the target audience, as the author defines "geek" as "a child who is empowered to be himself and be genuinely interested in real things rather than following trends and fads in pursuit of short-term popularity" not "child who goes to gaming conventions and sells comic books at his family's dealer table, occasionally while in costume."

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