- Posted September 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
My Mother is Different: Part 2
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
I heard stories from my peers their moms taking them shopping. There were always moms helping at school functions and sporting events, but not my mom. I saw moms genuinely interested in their child’s activities and in what their children were saying. These moms asked questions about their child’s lives and engaged in conversation. I saw moms joking around with their children.
My mother’s disease inhibits her ability to process a conversation that has substance. Everything has to be simple and easy to comprehend. She takes words literally; therefore it’s very difficult to joke with her.
I don’t remember my mom giving me baths and I don’t remember her ever telling my sister and I to get a bath. I didn’t see her bathe. My father worked the second shift, so he was working in the evenings and wasn’t around for the “normal” evening routines. I didn’t learn to bathe regularly until late middle school. My sister and I were bullied for our poor hygiene. I recall a time in 2nd grade that I was sent to the nurse’s office. I remember the nurse telling me I need to make sure I clean my neck when I bathe. I’ll never forget that day. When we came home from school, my father was waiting for us. We knew something was wrong because he was never home when we got home from school. The nurse called my father and suggested we needed better supervision during bath time. My father was so angry. He placed us in scolding hot bath water and took scrub bushes (the ones with the very think plastic bristles) and aggressively scrubbed our necks. We screamed and cried because we were in so much pain. My mom was in the other room and did not say anything or intervened in any way. Our necks were clean, but raw. That night, I begged God to die and I placed a plastic bag over my head, and puffed my asthma inhaler numerous times. I was 7-years-old. I had suicidal thoughts prior to this point, but this was the first time that I attempted suicide. Every time I take a shower, I always wash my neck first. I do this even today.
Despite the negatives, my mom had a talent. She played piano. She understood music and had a great appreciation for music. Music was her world. She was deaf to the world around her when she was at the piano. I don’t know if it was a coping mechanism, but she was completely closed to everyone and everything. However, my mom taught me to play the piano. She taught me to read music. I couldn’t read books and I only thought the alphabet went up to G, but, she taught me to appreciate music, which I value and instill upon my own children.
I’ve seen in the news, articles and debates whether adults with cognitive disabilities should marry, or even have children. This is tough because each person’s disability varies. Their level of understanding the responsibilities varies. There is not one answer that fits all.
Please understand that I speak from my own experience. I think any adult with a cognitive disability has the right to marry. However, there needs to be time for counseling to help understand the responsibilities involved. Having the couples’ families involved is essential. Regarding children, well, this is where it gets complicated. It’s no longer about the couple’s wishes and desires, but the wellbeing of the child. What will happen to the child? In these cases, the families need to be involved and commit to support. This may be pre-parenting counseling and role-playing. This may involve regular supervised visits or parent coaching. It really depends on the adult’s capacity to fulfill the responsibilities. My mother’s family was “hands-off”. My grandmother intervened at one point and there was a lot of backlash from my father. As a result, while I was unkempt, the family stood at the “sidelines”. There were many opportunities to intervene, but no one did. As a result, I suffered greatly for a long time.
I learned a lot from my past. My children are my priority. I’m not perfect, but I try my best. I’m involved with them. My twin sister and I made a promise one night when we were in middle school. We told each other that if we ever had daughters, we will take them shopping. We will take them out to eat. We will listen to them. I have two daughters and my twin sister has 3 daughters. We kept our promise.