Monday, November 10, 2008
Do Not Disturb
Today’s post is dedicated to Lynnette. She knows why…
I really had no idea how my life was going to be turned upside down when I adopted a child with significant disabilities. I thought I did, but I was wrong.
When I first brought Ashley home, my only parenting experience had come from raising my birth son as a single parent for 5 years. And, he was a pretty easy child to raise. He had some medical issues, but absolutely nothing to compare to Ashley’s medical issues. And, he was typically developing, if not advanced. My interactions with school were typical – my interactions with medical folks were typical – my battles with insurance were few – and my life was my own. All that changed the day I brought Ashley home.
As parents of a child with significant disabilities, our lives become very open books. Doctors and nurses ask very personal questions, and they ask them over and over again. School systems demand answers and test results and access to medical records. Even our friends, at least those brazen enough, ask very personal questions about our children and about our feelings and belief systems. We usually expect those things to some degree. What isn’t usually expected, or known in the beginning, is how we will lose all semblance of privacy in our own homes.
Almost all of us of who have children with significant issues will have to have in-home help at some point. That help may come in the form of nurses and/or personal care aides, and along with those people come the managers – the service facilitators who must visit periodically to ‘check up’ on things. And since all those service providers are seldom paid what they are worth, there is a lot of turnover. And that turnover means there is a constant stream of strangers into our homes.
These strangers hear our phone answering machine messages; they know when we leave dirty dishes in the sink; they hear us yell at our other children; they put away medical supplies and in the process, see that our closets and drawers are not always neat; while working in our kitchens, they see the beer in the refrigerator or the vodka in the cabinet; they know if we haven’t folded the laundry in the dryer, and in an effort to help, they fold not just our child’s clothes, but our clothes also. Just for the record, I don’t want other people folding my underwear.
They know what kind of books and magazines we read. They know the types of movies we rent. They know our tastes in food, and may even inadvertently uncover the hidden stash of candy. They may accept packages delivered for us, and in an attempt to be helpful, may open them and view the contents. They may bring our mail into the house, seeing just how many and what types of bills we receive.
In short, they are privy to almost every single aspect of our lives – not just the life of our child they are hired to assist. And I wonder, does it have to be this way? Do we have to give up our privacy just for our children to receive the services they need? Am I out in left field here, or do others have similar concerns? I would love to hear your thoughts.