Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Hard. Better. Different.

Life has been hard, then better, then different.

Hard: Being at home with the twins during Christmas holidays was a huge wake up call for me. Wow. Two years old is a really difficult time, which should surprise no one who has raised young children, but seems to have smacked me surprisingly in the face. Every time Ash and Wren do something cheeky or naughty I think to myself "But Phoenix never did that".

I've spoken in the past about the role of the "Golden Child" in the family. That child who seems to shine and take the spot as the favourite from the parents perspective. Megan (my twin) was the Golden Child for a long time.
Megan and Oli hugging

She has a very glamorous job as a photographer/photojournalist, married an Irishman (who himself is interesting and multi-talented as well as incredibly charming), had a very tasteful wedding in Ireland, travelled internationally, had articles and photos published in many publications and in generally just has lived a great life. I knew that my parents held them in very high esteem. Not that I wasn't held in high esteem, I was. I know I was loved and valued. I know I was respected. I just didn't shine in the same way.

Right now Phoenix is the Golden Child.
Mike holding Phoenix, who looks happy

She's the easiest to spend time with. She was an easy baby. An easy 2 year old, an easy 3 year old and now continues to all around be a generally nice person to be around. She loves all one on one attention from mom or dad, but does seem to have a special attachment to me, which I love. Phoenix is easy to laugh with, she's easy to redirect, she's easy to motivate and easy to spend time with. She's the Golden Child. And because of her, and the easy relationship she built with my parents, she elevated my own status to Golden Child with my mother, because I am the Keeper of Phoenix.

But Ash and Wren? Oh boy. The problem with 2 little precocious toddlers is that when one does something naughty, like spitting her water onto the floor at meal time, the other sees it happening, thinks "That looks like fun!" and copies her sister.  Not only is it fun to spit water on the floor, it's really fun to watch Mom and Grandma react to it.

Wren standing on the kitchen table and Ash standing by the train. Both in cloth diapers. 

It's also fun to throw toys down the stairs, throw dirty clothes over the bannister, paint your bedroom walls with milk, try to pull down the blinds, bang on the windows with hard toys, climb on the kitchen table (but there are rules about climbing on the kitchen table now, they have to be wearing clothes to do this because otherwise, yuck).

And I know, I know that none of this is out of the ordinary for 2 years olds, it's just not what I've experienced before, and it gets on my last nerve.

And yes, I chose to take a picture of them doing this instead of taking them down.

Ash and Wren standing on top of the change table stripping the decal off the wall. 

Better: Thankfully, my husband surprised me with a trip to Ontario to see my BFF Melissa as well as my Dad who lives in a care home there. The best part is that I got to go by myself sans children.

So I saw Melissa who has lived in Ontario for as long as I have lived in Alberta and reconnected as if I had never left. I even got to see her Mom who I have known for as long as Melissa and meet Melissa's new BF who seems like a great guy.

And I saw my Dad, which was hard. He didn't know who I was, and moved between saying "Go away now" and "Thank you very much". What was nice was seeing a laminated photo of myself on my wedding day with Phoenix and Mike and a photo of Meg and her husband.

Mike and I dancing with Phoenix looking up at us. 

It was clear that the photo was used and had been put up and taken down numerous times, which made me happy to see. It was a hard visit. That's not the Dad I know. It's not the Dad I'm used to seeing. But it was good to see him and see that he was clean and being cared for.

Different: I thought that to get further into the world of disability that I would need to enrol in graduate courses at the university. And I would still like to in the future. It's on my "list" of things I 'd like to get to once my kids are a bit older and life gets easier (that's the assumption anyway, that life will in fact get easier once my kids get older, if that's not actually case, please feel free to keep that bit of knowledge to yourself.  I'm much happier living in blissful ignorance.

Turns out, you just need to meet the right group of people to help you find the knowledge you need to start the learning process.

In the land of the Internet and twitter and FB there was a big uproar over the holidays. You can read about it here and here and here. These are thoughts from people with disabilities about the website The Mighty, of which I am a contributor. The basic premises is that disabled people (click to find out why I used that term) are upset about how parents of disabled children are writing about their kids. They are concerned that these children are being written about in a way that is not respectful, is intrusive and embarrassing and does not preserve the child's dignity.

I used this uproar as a chance to reflect upon my writing and to think about if this is something I do myself. I used it to learn about ableism, inspiration porn and to think about some of the ableist language that I do in fact use in my day to day life. I'm trying to stop now that I am aware that my use of these words hurts people. It serves to reinforce negative stereotypes in subtle ways. So I'm working on stopping.

I'm learning. Not in the way I thought I was going to learn, but learning nonetheless with a small peer group of writers who are disabled themselves or have significant people in their lives with disabilities, like me. I'm so grateful for them too.

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