Yesterday we took Charlie to our old college campus–it was Homecoming weekend. When your football team is in the top ten, Homecoming is almost a non-event. People show up for the big rivalries and Homecoming is pretty quiet by comparison. So we walked around campus, checking out the decorations, investigating new construction, visiting old friends, and other fun stuff.
One of Hubby’s colleagues came along. He’s from another country and so the antics of a large state college Homecoming celebration were something he wanted to see. He brought his wife and son who is about Charlie’s age.
My husband works with some really fantastic people. It’s a small, start-up company and the kind of place where people willingly work overtime and even hang out with each other when it’s not required. They have been wonderful with Charlie since day one and that includes uncomfortable discussions about health insurance.
But I’ve noticed lately, that I’m not real good at handling their pro-Charlie behavior. Not just the people from the office either–basically, anyone who I haven’t known for the last five million years gets the same bizarro response from my limbic system. They lean in, they greet Charlie with wide smiles and me? Well, first my stomach starts to churn. I observe and hope that Charlie “does OK.” I brace myself for his usual M.O.–drooling, looking away, or flopping over–the kinds of things that signal “not normal” like a police siren for the disabled. I worry about the food on his shirt and whether or not he’s got his cute shoes on.
I don’t know why I do this. When you show up with your kid in a wheelchair, I’m pretty sure the expectation of normalcy goes out the window. Was it our years of living in the disability closet that has my mind all confused? Am I still worried we won’t be accepted? That somehow we’ll be judged as lacking?
I should be celebrating these people. If the shoe were on the other foot, I’m not sure I’d have their grace. Is that the problem? Do I just not not “get it?”
I’m protective of Charlie–I have been since the very beginning. I want him to feel loved and accepted. I want him to have a place in the world. How on Earth will this every happen if people can’t look at him without me freaking out? It can’t. I’ve got to handle this. I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to stop worrying about being rejected–sometimes you get rejected–that’s no reason to stop going after what you want.
Now to figure out how. I swear, I had all the answers before I had this kid.