Stop Trying To Be Normal – Things My Daughters Teach Me

This is a bit of a follow up on yesterday’s rant with another classic IDS quote. I will however, do him the service of keeping his quote in context:

“I think the figure is now over 220,000, which I believe is the highest figure since records began, in proportionate terms, but the most important point is that we are looking to get that up to the level of normal, non-disabled people who are back in work. Those with disabilities have every right and every reason to expect exactly the same support into work that everybody else gets,”

So I’m not normal. What’s new?
I’ve been struggling with using the D word for a while and have been using my blog to test the water by dropping it into conversation here before I use it with the general populous.

But two conversations with and about my daughters have hit it home this week and left me wondering why I was so uptight about it.

TinyPants, who is now 9 and speaks her brilliant little mind as if she were running the country mentioned offhand to me that she’d “been talking about your disability at school to my teachers. They didn’t know you were disabled.”.
I tried fluffing it out saying well yes, Mummy is in pain and I do use the wheelchair, and sticks, and….

Then she looked me square in the face and said “You are disabled. Your body doesn’t work. You are my mum and you’re disabled. It’s a fact. Just like Best friend is my best fried and she’s Brazilian. What’s the problem with saying it?”

Um, nothing you blindingly insightful child. Bloody hell, never change.

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Cue cute picture of TinyPants with mega milkshake testing said best friend

Then we had parents evening for Beanpole. We had the usual are you aware that your nearly 11 year old is tackling GCSE papers? conversation. Yes, she’s also totally unaware of how clever she’s become  (This is a good thing) so she’s also working her socks off. Clever teacher. But the thing that struck me, and made me terribly proud of her was the gushing from her teacher of how great it is that she refuses to change to impress people. She sticks to her slightly oddball guns and does what she feels is right and makes her happy. Who cares if she loves dinosaurs and has read every book in the library, she is & looks how she wants to (within set parental limits), and figuratively sticks two fingers up to the crowd. Because of she literally did it, she’d be grounded forever.

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Less cute, more emo - only my oreo milkshake understands me.

So neither of my kids see the point in normality, nor do they see disability as not normal.

We are who we are. And I’m very proud of them for being better than me.

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Laughter (and understanding ) is the best medicine

There’s this angry lump that starts beneath my ribs and rises up my sternum. Sometimes it reaches my throat and burns my shoulders, other times it just rises and falls reminding me that it’s there, leaving me hoping that it’s not doing too much damage. I sleep propped up at night waking every hour or so to assess whether I need some water, or feel sick. Generally, I’ll just grump about it and go back to sleep as my oesophagus gently smoulders.

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This is just one of the many and varied gifts that EDS keeps giving me. Although it’s easy to identify, unlike lots of other things. It’s gastric reflux. There are drugs to help, although they’re not exactly working yet.

Today though, I didn’t need to explain how any of it feels for a couple of hours. There were two women in a coffee shop, sitting in wheelchairs, wrapped up in too many layers for this time of year. Although they’d never met, conversation flowed and symptoms were compared. The people sat next to them raised eyebrows as they talked through hair raising medical procedures and pain levels. After a couple of hours, the effort of talking & laughing and randomly rubbing the bits that were twinging clearly left them both exhausted. And for the first time in months I didn’t feel like a massive fraud. Someone else was describing my body and other people’s reaction to it, but it wasn’t me.

I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I can’t put into words how grateful I am to know someone who just gets it. I guess “thank you for reaching out” will have to do.

And next time, it’s my turn to get the cake and coffee 🙂

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Is middle class a state of mind or a wad of cash?

Ok, you people have brains, so here are the two posts that I am about to refer to. Make up your own minds.

Jilly Luke – http://www.leftfutures.org/2013/08/lentils-and-lager-why-we-forgive-tax-evaders-but-not-benefit-claimants/

A Girl Named Jack – http://agirlcalledjack.com/2013/08/25/dear-jilly-luke-i-tried-to-top-myself-six-months-ago-in-my-beatrix-potter-cosy-poverty/

But here’s my two penneth…

Ms Luke appears to be trying to make an argument (and one that I agree with) that David Cameron and his media circus is attempting to portray the less well off sections of our society as undesirable, unlawful and the reason why our financial institutions have made most of us suffer. Not surprisingly, they are not likely to vote for him. However, the propaganda is extended further to beguile the middling to aspire to the ‘middle class’ which having met some of the ‘true middle class’, is out of reach of many of us. As a teacher, the chances of me earning enough to afford private education and ponies is laughable, however I do consider my family with their higher education, own home, use of cous cous and grasp of grammar (I’m sorry Internet) to be quite middle class. Middle class that teeters on a monthly paycheck.

So in essence, I agree.

But.

She worded her argument poorly. In trying to explain that the propaganda has led many people to judge the ‘poor’ by their outward appearance, she appears to have fallen into her own trap.

Jack is described as living in a Beatrice Potter-esq poverty because of the culinary choices she makes. Because she has made healthy choices, or those which have allowed her to stretch her money further by making use of certain ingredients that the poor couldn’t possibly understand like chickpeas and lentils, she is deemed ‘middle class’ (which is now a slur? I think.) Jack certainly writes with eloquence, which flies in the face of the illiterate picture that people on benefits are meant to be.

It seems the argument is unravelling. Or is it?

I think what Jilly was trying to say is that we love Jack because she’s openly trying. She’s found a way to live through the benefits system without becoming the Cameron stereotype. She’s not the scrounger that the government would like us to judge all claimants to be, but a mum doing her best in the worst of circumstances. There are people who just won’t try, or who don’t know how to, but making them villains won’t work (those in glass houses?)

I think Jilly was trying to say, suck it up Cameron, this woman is proving you wrong and is supported not just by the ‘proud working class’.

At least, I hope that’s what she’s saying.