I get it. Talking about learning difficulties is awkward and uncool. People don’t know what to say so they just skip past it, as if I haven’t even spoken. I do get it.
But I still get pissed off. It still pisses me off that my thoughts and feelings aren’t acknowledged. Not because I’m important and deserve to be heard, but because I’m seemingly being ignored while parents of typical children are eagerly chatting away to each other.
Remember that scene in ‘The Beach’ (the Leo movie with the All Saints song) where a man with a manky leg is taken to the opposite side of the island to fester and die alone because his presence is ruining the enjoyment of the idyllic beach for the other non-manky legged inhabitants? Well I’m the man with the manky leg. Me talking about the struggles I have with my child with learning disabilities pricks the parenting bubble of the ‘normal’ mums and they just want to enjoy that god damn beach without me ruining it for them.
I commented on a well know blogger/vlogger’s Instagram post the other day. It was World Book Day and she’d posted some corny shit about how children are made readers in their parents’ laps. Then some other earnest parent smugly commented ‘a child who reads is an adult who thinks’, as if she’d imparted some massive and important pearl of wisdom.
My comment wasn’t bitchy or self pitying, I just wrote that my child had no interest in books due to his learning difficulties and I wished he would sit on my lap to read. I suppose I was trying to make the point that it isn’t always down to the parent if the child isn’t into books. And it doesn’t mean that my child will not think as an adult because he didn’t read ‘That’s Not My Train’ as a 2 year old.
Straight underneath my comment an online children’s store account wrote ‘reading on laps is the best!’ and then went on to try to flog the blogger a book that was conveniently stocked in their shop. They totally ignored my comment. Insensitive. But it’s okay, they had a book to flog.
What pissed me off though, was that this blogger then replied to the childrens store account but ignored my comment completely. Just totally ignored it. Like it wasn’t even there. And she’d seen it because it was directly above the one she was gushing over.
Okay, she doesn’t have a duty to reply; okay she might have been busy; okay she might have overlooked my comment and not seen it. But I doubt it. I think it was too awkward and she didn’t know what to say. So she ignored it. It happens a lot.
Some of my own friends ignore the issue. Just never mention it, like it isn’t happening. And if I start to talk about it they close down; don’t reply; change the subject. One even told me she wasn’t being rude, she just didn’t know what she was supposed to say and it made her feel uncomfortable. Bloody hell. Sorry about that.
Other friends try to help. Send me links to articles about how one boy ‘beat his autism’ when his mum cut out gluten from his diet. Or tell me how a friend of a friend had a son who didn’t start to talk until he was 5 and now he wouldn’t shut up. Or tag me in posts on Facebook about how great dogs are for children on the spectrum.
Some friends tell me what they think I want to hear. Try to convince me that there isn’t actually a problem, he’s ‘just a typical boy’, he will ‘grow out of it and be fine’. I actually feel for these friends because I too can be guilty of telling people what I think they want to hear. People pleasing. It’s an affliction.
A few friends just listen. Even fewer actually ask me how my boy’s doing. How I’m doing. Ask me how I’m feeling, if I’m getting enough sleep, if I’m getting enough help. They tell me they admire my strength but if I’m not feeling strong it’s okay to lean on them. They’re there for me. They don’t have the answers but they’re there for me. These friends are few but they’re invaluable.
If you have a friend like me I implore you to be amongst the latter group of people. Don’t profess to know how they feel, just ask them and listen. Just be there and let them know you care about them and care about what they’re going through. I never expect anyone to give me a solution but sometimes I just need to be able to talk and put my worries out there. Without fear of upsetting someone with my sadness or making them feel uncomfortable.
And if you don’t have a friend like me but if someone happens to mention their child’s disabilities to you, for the love of God don’t ignore it. Respond to whatever they’ve said in some way. Being a special needs parent is hard enough as it is without feeling we’re being ignored.
We’re not looking for solutions and answers, we just need to talk things through and let out our worries/fears/emotions sometimes. Or in my case with the blogger, give another perspective; speak out on behalf of those who are different. Remind people that not everyone is going down the same path with their children and we matter too.