I recently was shopping for a new rug for my daughter’s room. The sales person was very helpful and kind. And in the midst of selling a rug, she learned a little bit about disability and quality of life—an unexpected lesson, I’m sure.
I told her what I was looking for: colors, softness, durability, and cost. I also explained the reasons I needed a soft but durable rug—my daughter, who has a disability, is really hard on them. I need to clean it often and easily. It needs to be soft because she spends a lot of time lying on it.
The sales person was politely interested in hearing more about my daughter.
Funny. Sometimes I can answer people’s questions with grace and patience. Sometimes I recognize their questions or curiosity for what it is—ignorance asking to be educated.
But other times the questions and curiosity seem rude and nosy. Sometimes I handle the staring or questions with anything but grace. But there are times, frankly, I just don’t want to talk about it. I tire of being the advocate and educator.
Thankfully this day, in the flooring store, was a day that I handled the questions with grace. I offered information about my daughter, about disabilities, and about some of our everyday struggles. I let a stranger enter into a little corner of our world – at least in how our struggles might be impacted by a rug.
At one point, the sales person looked me straight in the eyes and replied, “How sad. That’s so sad.”
Without missing a beat, I smiled. I was able to appreciate her kindness. I could recognize her attempt at showing sympathy and compassion for my daughter. It wasn’t rudeness. Her pity was simply uninformed and misguided. She was “green” when it came to disabilities.
I smiled at her and assured her that it’s not sad at all. “She’s perfect,” I told the woman. “She’s absolutely perfect. I promise it’s not sad.”
I explained a few other things about my daughter, proving that she is actually more like other teenagers than I made it sound. She’s first, a young girl. She’s very typical in that she loves pop music. She is addicted to YouTube, thinks her gymnastics coach is smashingly handsome, and yells at her brothers to get out of her room.
It’s not sad.
Her life looks different than some. But really, she’s just a girl. A happy, teenage girl with an occasional attitude.
By the look in the salesperson’s eye, she discovered something that day. When a person with a disability enters her store, she doesn’t have to pity them. She learned that life with a disability isn’t a sad one, and hopefully learned to look past the disability,
And just like that I changed that little part of the world. Just by being my daughter’s mom. Just by telling her story. Just by spreading awareness. Learn more about Navigating Daily Life - Parenting a Child with Disabilities on this website.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.