Banning the D-word, because ability matters more

I recently attended a charity conference and sat through a talk about Disability Living Allowance. And I have to admit, I tuned out. Many of the people there were entitled to it, and no doubt rely on it to support their family. But not only do I not believe in claiming for anything if you don’t need to, I think claiming would open a whole other can of worms.

By claiming for Kitty, we’d be applying a label; one I don’t want to define her, in her eyes or other people’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t object to the words ‘disabled’ or ‘disability’. There are people who need those classifications to get the help and support they need; but I don’t want them to be in our family’s vocabulary. I really think not categorising our little girl is key to her self-esteem.

Of course Kitty’s different and of course, people will sometimes treat her differently because of her arm. But I want other things – like being kind, funny, clever and determined – to define who Kitty is.

I want her to hear, every single day, positive words that make her feel good about herself. For her to then use those words to describe herself and believe them. And I never want her to give up before she’s even tried because of someone else’s classification.

Although she can’t read yet, I’ve found a quote I’m going to hang on our wall.

‘She believed she could, so she did’

Now it’s our job to find those magic words that will make her believe. And the D-word definitely won’t be one of them.

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What am I? Cheeky and charming!

The amazing supporters cheering kids like Kitty on

Being surrounded by people with a limb difference isn’t something that happens every day. Before I met Kitty, it’s not something I’d ever encountered before, so standing in a hotel lobby in Leicester where probably a third of the people were like her was unusual to say the least.

This weekend we attended our first family weekend with the charity Reach, who support the families of kids with upper limb differences. I was a little apprehensive on the drive down, as it’s the first time we’ve done anything linked to her arm, but the second we walked through the door, that nervousness melted away.

Everyone was so welcoming, so friendly and so open. Within minutes, we’d been approached by the parents of a 21-year-old with an arm like Kitty’s to tell us how he’d driven them there in his adapted car. So many people came over just to say hello and coo over Kitty – and her arm. ‘It’s so cute – reminds me of my little boy,’ said one mum. And of course, Miss Kitty loved being the centre of attention.

We met families I’d had messages of support from on the Reach Facebook page when we first found out, and even a family who live less than a mile away from us. We learned about bionic arms, 3D printed limbs and heard some really inspiring stories from people who haven’t let their difference stop them from doing anything.

But I think the thing that affected me the most was seeing the kids – from toddlers to teenagers – just getting on with being kids. Running round messing about with their mates, getting dolled up for the gala dinner. All of them different but just the same, and all so confident.

By the time we checked out, I found I’d stopped looking to see if our fellow guests were Reach kids or not. And I’d forgotten that Kitty has something different about her too.

I feel so grateful to have found Reach and feel so positive about Kitty’s future after this weekend. These kids do things I would never dare attempt and with them (and us) cheering her on, there’ll be nothing our incredible Miss Kitty can’t do*.

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*Except sleep. After an exciting day making new friends that was one thing she wasn’t capable of. Someone pass the coffee…

Visit Reach at http://www.reach.org.uk – they’re a small charity that do amazing work, so need support. If you can donate or help out with fund-raising, you’ll make some incredible kids very happy.

If I’d known then what I know now… a letter to the old me

Dear Past Me,

There have been lots of times when I wished I could have told you what was coming. Given you a heads up and told you ‘everything’s going to be OK’.

It was a year ago that we found out our baby was missing part of her left arm, and now, more than ever, I wish I had a time machine to go back and hand you this letter.

Right now, you feel like the world has ended. Like you’ll never be happy again. But just take a look at this:

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This time next year, you’ll be spending all your time having fun with this little dude. Playing and giggling together. Glowing with pride as she dives under the water at swimming and comes up smiling. Watching in amazement as she scoffs down Japanese food without batting an eyelid. Making an absolute idiot of yourself just to hear her laugh.

She’ll be your best friend, your greatest achievement and the love of your life, and what you feel like now will be nothing but a distant memory.

So please, 2014 me, don’t cry or mourn the life you thought you were going to have. Look forward, because everything’s going to be OK. Actually, it’s going to be brilliant.

Lots of love,

Present Me

P.S. Sleep now, while you can. Seriously. At every opportunity.