Yesterday I responded to an invitation to speak to a class at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA. While I wish I was there in person, it was via Skype :).
Over ten years ago, I spent a semester at IUP on student exchange. I lived on campus and made some truly beautiful and long-lasting friends. One friend from that time was Nancy, who was actually the supervising teacher at my pre-service teaching placement at the university school. We had a lot of fun teaching her kindergarten students about Australia, particularly through Aussie picture books. I just loved the accents on those cute little four and five year olds!!
Nancy now works with the college students since the closure of the university school. She is currently teaching a class about children with disabilities in pre-school classrooms. My understanding is that many of the students are disability services majors, studying social services degrees or similar. In short, my role was to give them the perspective of a parent in this group and to share some of my initial experiences with them. They had been following my blog and those of other special needs parents as part of the course work in lieu of a textbook.
Prior to the chat, Nancy sent me a list of questions – 35 of them! They covered all sorts of areas, some about routines and therapies, and others more personal. One question that got me thinking was surrounding my motivations for blogging.
Honestly, when I set up the WordPress site as a launch pad for our friends and family to Claire’s fundraising account and the information on the Cri du Chat Support Group of Australia website, I explicitly told Matt that I had no plans to ‘blog’ other than to perhaps provide semi-regular updates of Claire’s progress. I was already feeling overwhelmed by the feeling of never having enough time to do everything I needed and wanted to do.
A couple of established blogging CDC mums (OK, moms) contacted me when I set up the site and let me know how great they thought it was that I was blogging. One shared my site with her followers and I thought….oh dear…I must make their trip worthwhile!! I shared a little bit about Claire, then my plans to start the 365 gratefuls project on her first birthday, then news of the celebration, then…. D-Day. I think this was about the time I started to feel the therapeutic benefits of the blogging experience. I really shared what to me was by far one of the most intimate moments of our journey so far. The response of support I got from this, was extremely uplifting.
I often feel bad/dishonest saying that this is ‘Claire’s blog’, because in reality, it is more about me! It is certainly about the ‘me’ I have become since having Claire in our lives, and about the new perspectives I have gained on life and love and motherhood and humankind and gratefulness and EVERYTHING!
There are a few reasons why I really want to keep blogging and sharing our story. Firstly of course, is to celebrate Claire Matilda, our amazing and inspiring daughter. Secondly, is that I think that blogging is about the cheapest therapy for me that I am ever going to get! I mean, I share a few thoughts, come to a few conclusions, make a few plans – then, I get feedback by way of likes, comments, emails and phone calls that provide encouragement, support, empathy and perspective. All from the comfort of my own home! Thirdly, perhaps my blog could help another parent new to their journey with special needs. I was and am so encouraged by the posts of other blogging parents and I hope perhaps my words might one day comfort, encourage and support another family.
When I pondered the question of my blogging motivation, fear was also something that came to mind. I believe that our life experiences change us. I believe that it is impossible for events in our lives to not impact how we view ourselves, others and the world around us. As much as I love Claire with all of my heart and soul, and want nothing more than to be her mother, having her in my life has certainly presented me with new challenges. I have said on a number of occasions that the last 18 or so months have been the most difficult of my life so far, but they have also been the most fulfilling. I have felt myself begin to change, and my fear is of any distance coming between myself and others.
Before I was Claire’s mum, I was quite hesitant about asking people about differences and disabilities. I was most certainly tolerant, but just naïve to so much and I would say a little ignorant too. I wasn’t going to ask questions, perhaps for a fear of exposing my own lack of experience and knowledge about disability. Perhaps it is just me that feels this way, but in case it is not, I want to make sure that other people know it is ok to ask me questions, and to read about new things (such as Cri du Chat Syndrome!) to further your own knowledge and understanding.
At the moment, I am hoping that much of my blog audience is people just like me – 2 years ago. People whose lives haven’t been directly effected by disability, but that might now learn a bit more about the challenges individuals and families experience, and the amazing contributions these individuals and families can make to their communities. I don’t think that as yet I have much to offer to special needs parents as I really lack experience in this position! However, one day it will come :).
If you want to know something, please ask. If you can, please talk to other people about Claire and the other children whose sites I share on her Facebook community. We want to raise awareness, improve services, and avoid isolation!
Yesterday, I got to spread Claire’s story even further. Thank you Nancy, and thank you also to your very welcoming students. I hope that the visit was beneficial for you all and that the accent wasn’t too tricky to follow (at lightning speed!). I am fairly sure there were a number of blank faces when Callum chimed in too! He was very excited to tell Matt last night that we had been to America. Another busy day 😉
PS. Nancy…I think those who commented on Claire’s Community should get extra credit ;).