June 13, 2006

The Rub

There's a woman in my church who rubs me the wrong way. I shouldn't be that way, because she does have mental issues. However, her loud outbursts during church services and functions, incessant questions, and her snapping at other church members over the slightest things sets my teeth on edge. During a recent choir picnic, I overheard my pastor complaining about how she will stop by the church at all hours of the day. He is a full-time pastor, and has his hands full with work. Also, a couple of Christian college students are living in the upper spaces during the summer. If he makes the mistake of allowing her in the building during hours when church is not in session, she follows the pastor around and doesn't give him a chance to breathe. What does this have to do with being childfree you may ask? I have not seen her mother, but I've beginning to wonder what kind of parent would allow their mentally disabled child to roam the streets at all times of day.

My youngest brother was born mentally disabled. My mother would say she was glad he was born a male. I knew of too many females I grew up with who had mental and/or emotional disabilities who had been taken advantage of on the streets. A few of them ended up pregnant. Having to deal with a child is hard enough, but having to deal with a child with a disability is an extra challenge. That is not to say some parents of such children do not rise to the challenge and meet it excellently. I remember meeting an older gentleman on the bus who impressed me by how he spoke of his disabled daughter with a twinkle in his eye. It was clear that the child had always been in need of extra care and extra trouble, but he did not regret a moment of it. That child was still a wanted child to him. I worked with a guy who always spoke of his daughter as if she was just like other children. It wasn't until his funeral that I realized his daughter had a disability. It said something about him that he never though of her as being less than.

Unfortunately, some parents choose to push their kid off on others because they don't know how to deal with them and don't want to learn how. I was happy to hear that one of the more problematic kids at my job had been transferred elsewhere, due to the fact that they had "aged" out of the program. I got the impression that the kid's custodial parent had been a pain the entire time, blaming staff for allegedly "agitating" their kid, but refusing to work with staff on the care plan for them. I don't fault parents for wanting to get help for their children who have disabilities. I do fault those who throw up their hands and expect society to take on the full brunt of their care without any input from the parents. It also doesn't say much for what they think about their kids.


Robin said...

I don't think parents truly realize what they are in store for as a parent. If you are lucky your kids is born mostly problem free but most kids have some kinds of problem. I don't think I could handle it, which is why I don't think I should be a parent.

s said...

One of the slices in my Pie Chart of Reasons Why I Am Childfree is my sister. She has Down syndrome. She was born when my mom was 35 and had two other kids already (myself and my brother). My sister is 25 now and my parents are both 61 and she still lives with them. This is not an optimal situation for anyone. My parents are in near-constant battle with her and they are very close to the ends of their ropes in terms of their patience and tolerance. My dad would like to retire in the next few years, but they aren't going toenjoy any part of their "golden years" with my sister hanging around. She is extremely difficult to be around. The chances of her getting out of their house and into a subsidized group living facility are next to none. Wathing the slow, unavoidable downhill slide in my family for the last 25 years has been very painful. I am especially sad for my parents. They certainly didn't ask for this, and after this long, I know they don't want it, but they're trapped. I have danced up to but never really had the guts to ask my mom The Question: if she wishes my sister had never been born. Other things she has let slip over the years have led me to believe her answer would probably be "yes."

My mom conceived my sister when she was only 34. Some might consider that on the young side for the incidence of Down syndrome. It certainly wasn't something my mom was thinking about at that age. I know Down syndrome doesn't "run in families," and the likelihood of my producing a child with the syndrome would be low (and, let's face it, I'd abort such a fetus anyway, something my mom didn't do because she declined to have an amniocentesis test that would have revealed the Down syndrome), but seeing the damage my sister's existence has done to my family made me vow to avoid EVER taking the chance that the same thing could happen to me. Don't let anyone try and pull the wool over your eyes. Raising a special needs child is a grinding, extremely stressful and often unfulfilling endeavor. It also almost destroyed my parents' marriage. They survived, barely, but plenty of other couples do not. I have taken every step possible to ensure that the same thing will never happen to me.

NikkiJ said...

S, thanks for sharing this.

When I hear of people in their 30's and 40's being encouraged to have children I wonder if they ever consider the high chances of having a child with Down's Syndrome. I had a colleague who had her first baby when she was 34, which, as you say doesn't seem that old. She also refused to have the test for Downs, thinking that it wasn't likely to happen as she was "only" 34. Her baby was born with Downs Syndrome. They love their daughter but they struggle in bringing her up. The chance that I might have had a child with DS was one of my primary consideration when we were talking the childfree issue through.Once I was in my thirties I was certain I did not want to take the risk.

lei said...

I feel so sad, to think that there are probably many, MANY mentally disabled children living with parents who don't care enough about them.

I wonder if it's common for people with disabled siblings (my sister is autistic as well as having learning difficulties) to be more inclined NOT to have children. I've never wanted children of my own, since I was very young. I wonder if interacting with my sister has contributed to my reasons for not wanting kids of my own?

I love my sister, and my family love my sister, we love looking after her and helping her, and I actually think my sister has enriched our lives by making us appreciate life more. But maybe looking after her has put something into my brain that says "i've been babysitting all my life (and I won't stop either), I don't want kids so I can have some ME time" :) Sorry for the ramble, this post just sparked the idea off in my head, I hadn't thought about it before.