It has become a familiar annual joke, and a favorite topic for columns and blogs ... those annoying, uncomfortable, or just plain weird conversations we have, at Thanksgiving and Christmas, with relatives we talk to only once or twice a year. Most of the time, people are talking about arguments over politics or religion, or else eye-rolling queries about our love lives, marriage plans, and when the hell we're going to give someone grandchildren. But, what about those of us with disabilities?
We have to grapple with these topics too, of course, but we all are confronted with other topics that seem to come with the disability experience. What kinds of disability talk do we dread, or maybe look forward to, during the holiday season?
• Do your relatives pester you to work harder at therapies? Do they suggest "new" treatments, alternative therapies, or doctors that you've already considered ten times before?
• Do they over-praise you for the smallest adult accomplishments? Or, do they still treat you like a child ... their precious "special needs" child?
• Do they noticeably avoid topics with you that they constantly bring up with your brothers, sisters, and cousins of the same age ... like boyfriends and girlfriends, education, or career plans?
• Do they act uncomfortable or impatient with things you'd like to share? Do their eyes glaze over when you talk about "disability issues", or your new thoughts and ideas about disability gained through another year's experience, advocacy, or education?
• Is your family too curious? Or, not curious or interested enough? How does your family view and talk about your disability?
And while I'm on the topic of family conversations around disability, what about parents of disabled children? I'm sure I can only begin to imagine the mix of emotions about those holiday conversations, a mixture I'm sure of support, sentimentality, judgement, and indifference.
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