Sometimes it feels like we are looking through a glass partition at life. My palms are placed flat on either side of my face as I gaze in longingly, wondering what it would feel like to be on the other side. The side where people don't even realize they are included- because it's all they've ever known.
It takes effort to include. In my experience, the times my boys or I have been excluded wasn't because someone was purposely being mean, it's just that they forgot about us, or just didn't think to include us. And I can tell you with tears in my eyes and the deepest ache in my heart, it hurts all the same.
I'm the type of person who, when I see something I truly need, I will do whatever it takes to make it happen. I don't take no for an answer. If it doesn't exist I'll do what I can to make it. Especially when it comes to my boys.
But Inclusion... it's something that keeps me awake at night. It's something we've had to fight for in almost every aspect of living, this is not a topic that is limited to Education. We fight for a place at the proverbial table-to be included. At times it's been mildly frustrating, and times downright gutting. You have to be polite when you do it- so the very group you want to include might be more willing to do so in the future, even if your heart has been broken over it 100 times before. Can we come too? I promise! We don't take up much room! We won't get in the way! It makes me sad, to have to advocate for what should be every human's right- to be included. To be welcomed. To been seen as adding value simply because we exist.
It takes a Village to raise a child, they say, but sometimes that Village does not exist for families like mine. I don't think we should be relegated to a Special Needs only Village- which is what the world so often tries to do. Can't you just hang out with your own kind? Won't you be more comfortable there? (Which really means- we won't make you uncomfortable.) I'm so glad Special Needs Sports Team and Proms and Classes and Clubs and Special Movies with Sensory screenings exist- they fill in a gap of participation and belonging that many people with Disabilities need and love.
But that's not what my boys need and want. They wan't to participate with EVERYONE while at the same time- being their perfectly atypical selves. They want to play with friends and to be invited over to hang out. They want to participate in activities that other kids their same age participate in. But they aren't, or they aren't allowed to in some cases. It's a vital part of childhood for others, it was for me- but for them- it simply does not exist. The playdates and sleep overs, the clubs, the bike rides, having a best friend they can hang with... It builds up in my Momma heart. It's lonely. It's part of why we are exploring moving to St. Louis- with the hopes that there will be a place for my whole family to be included. Schools and a Catholic Church and neighborhoods and playdates and Family BBQ's and more.
My friend Wendy has a beautiful Podcast called, What I Meant To Say. She shares, "I believe that the greatest gift we can give to the next generation is our own self-awareness. The goal of this podcast is to connect us through the visions, stories, and life lessons of people rising in sports, business & life and uncover the optimism that is sometimes front and center, and other times under the surface." Wendy has the truest perspective for the World, and an optimistic vision for the Future. No one makes me feel more myself, and I don't think anyone makes me feel as seen. I love the way she sees my boys so dang much, a view always centered around strengths and gifts. I am so grateful for her friendship.
In an Episode of What I Meant to Say launching Wednesday, August 24th, fueled by the beginning of the 2022/2023 School Year, Wendy and I have a deep conversation about Inclusion. There's no better time than to build an inclusive world than at the beginning of something new.
Speaking of Inclusion, this week the family and I are trying a new adventure. We are fostering Momma Laney, and her 4 week old puppy.
We are on Day 3, and each day it's gotten a little easier. It's hard work, and not for the people who like a clean and chaos free house. Lucy and Oliver are adjusting really well. The boys love it. It's been hard but beautiful. They are reminding me that life isn't fair, that we don't all get the very basics of what we deserve- like love and a home to live in. But Momma and Babe are so very perfect and worthy of love. Just because we may not be included, doesn't mean we aren't worthy of it. I wish Laney could talk and tell me her story, like there were other pups in her litter. (I cry thinking about it all.) They both still have the ability to dole out unlimited tail wags and kisses, despite their hard knock circumstances. I don't know why we get the stories we are given. Especially the sad ones. But I do know that we are all given the ability to write our own happy ending.