Friday, May 31, 2013

What makes my kid so awesome?

Is my kid awesome because he is reading and writing early?

 ...Because she has a beautiful voice?

 ...Because he has amazing balance and coordination?

 ...Because she is deeply philosophical?

 ...Because he memorizes whole movies?

 ...Because she owns the stage?

 ...Because she is gorgeous?

 ...Because she writes beautiful poems?

 ...Because he has a rich imagination?

 ...Because she is talented?

 What if they were able to do none of those things? Would they still be awesome? Of course.  A mother sees her children as absolutely perfect no matter what their specific talents are. Or what challenges they face. Perfect not in the sense of not requiring disciplining, but perfect in the sense of being awesome.  Perfectly unique individuals, bundles of potential.

Potential.  What does that mean? If a person's potential is extremely limited, and he achieves it, then it is awesome.  If a person's potential is great and he squanders it... not so much.  Can we really look at people for their own individual potential and appreciate them for their own sake?

Perhaps the reason people have trouble with disability is that we want to be appreciated for our own potential, without regard to how well we live up to it. Easier that way.  Recognizing that a person with disabilities is living more fully to his/her potential forces us to face our own laziness.  Not a comfortable place to be.

Of course, we don't actually know what anyone's potential is, disabilities or not.  And so many of us have invisible disabilities.  And pretty much all of us have challenges that we must overcome in order to reach our potential.  So the concept of "disability" is not that distinct.  It's a way of making the rest of us feel normal.


  1. Flattered to be linked in this piece. Well written. Shabbat Shalom!

  2. "If a person's potential is extremely limited, and he achieves it, then it is awesome."

    Hm... Here I must disagree with you. I think the idea that PWD is limited in potential by some absolute measure is not quite right. Instead, I'd argue that any such limitation is imposed upon them from an ableist world. I think it is an important distinction to make, as it speaks to the inherent equality of all people.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that the term disability is a slippery one, and is by and large a construct to create a sense of normalcy for the majority. I enjoy reading your posts. :)

    1. I struggle with how to word that. Is it better to say that we are all limited? Or to say that we are all limitless? Both are true in their own ways.

  3. Well both seem true to me as well. We are all limited and limitless at the same time, right?

    I was more talking about that particular way that you juxtaposed one person's potential as being limited while another can be great. It seems that you imply in the next paragraph that the person with limited potential is the PWD, whereas the typical person is the one with the great potential who squandered it in laziness, therefore feeling uncomfortable at the PWD who is living up to their full, but somehow inherently limited potential.

    Or maybe I'm reading that wrong?

    I've been known to read things the wrong way. ;)

    1. I see potential on a continuum. Disabilities certainly do impact potential, but so do many other characteristics. Some PWD have greater potential than typicals who have other challenges. Many PWD are able to minimize the impact of the disabilities, but even then, if they were suddenly magically made typical, their potential would be greater, no? (Assuming whatever compensatory assets such as perseverence, positive attitude, people skills etc would be left intact)

    2. Ok, I just wrote about this on my blog. I think we are potentially trying to say the same thing, but with some very meaningful differences in delivery. :)

    3. Nice post! Very eloquent! (Please link back to me if you refer to my ideas, though.... Thanks!)