As adults, as parents, as caregivers, and as people who, for the most part, are independent, we understand the importance of showing gratitude for the things we’re given and the people in our lives.
Children, as dependent creatures often have difficulty understanding what appreciation means. Your children, as individuals impacted by disability, need to learn that a little appreciation and gratitude goes a long way. With that, enjoy a story of someone in my life who showed me, truly, that gratitude and appreciation only pay off in the end.
Like most children with disabilities, it wasn’t until about my sophomore year of high school that I began to realize that while there were laws governing how teachers and other support personnel were required to support me, it was often the things that people did just because they wanted to or saw that going above and beyond was the most adequate and efficient ways to do things. In high school, I had a wonderful support team inside the special education department, but outside, it took more work to help teachers understand that just because I had the letters I, E, and P attached to my name didn’t mean that I wasn’t capable or that they shouldn’t have treated me just like any other student. By graduation two years later, my high school was a model for inclusion, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.
When I began my college search as a junior in high school, I was told by several counselors and similar professionals that it was better to search college campuses by meeting with disability service centers and the people who work in them because if they couldn’t meet the needs that I had that were posed by my disability, there would be really no point in me attending the college.
On a dreary October day, I met the most wonderful support system, aside from my mother, I’ve ever had. (Because he doesn’t know I’m writing this, I won’t use his name.) Having personal experience as a parent of a child with a disability, I knew it was okay to tell him that I needed something, that something just wasn’t right, that something went wonderfully. After a rocky start to my college career through the first two years, my MillyDaddy (my term of endearment for him) saw me through it all. We went to church together, and I had known a lot about his family, a lot about the ways that they were involved in the town. We truly were, and are, family.
In March of this year, I got the dreaded news that MillyDaddy had gotten another job at another state university. I was happy, as this meant that he was moving into the same town as his two children and grandchildren, but I was heartbroken at the same time. What would this mean for me? How would I walk past his office without the floods of tears that happened for the first few weeks after he had left? How do I explain my needs, very specifically, to someone else? The intuition that MillyDaddy and I felt was, and is, astounding.
Thank goodness for e-mail, text messaging, and cell phones. The last few months have been the hardest of my adult life to date. Last week, a friend and I made the trek to see MillyDaddy at his new job, where he was as happy as I’ve ever seen, and where, inevitably, he was the same MillyDaddy he’ll always be. Though I deeply wish he would come back to be with me daily again as he once was, I can be grateful and thankful for the lessons he taught me, not the least of which was the value of appreciation. Because of some things that have happened in my life, he’s truly a second dad, and I’ll always appreciate his support and his love.
Erin can be found at Healthy, Unwealthy and Becoming Wise