Finding Ninee » Sharing our parenting and special needs stories with heart and humor.

Meeting People with Special Needs Makes Us Better

Sometimes, we meet somebody who changes one of our truths. 

In a lifetime, we meet many. Some change what we advocate for, live for, and defend. Meeting others changes less significant things inside of us.

Each meeting matters though, because meeting and melding and letting in and letting out is evolution.

Sometimes, we meet people who mean that we change our last name, or a title at work.

In a lifetime, we may meet a mentor who takes us from mediocre to amazing, or who helps us to realize that we don’t actually want a desk job after all.

We come across a shelter dog who teaches us about rescuing him as he rescues us. We wonder whether animals have souls. Sometimes, we wonder whether humans do, too.

We wake one day and realize that each of us has a story, and that every single one of us has both terrible and magical things in our rearview mirrors.

That each of us has the power to make others feel dismissed and awful, or seen and loved.

We see the power of telling our stories. Of sharing.

Of being more alike than different.

One day, we realize that meeting people with special needs makes us better.

***

“I can’t wait to meet you,” I whispered to my engorged belly. I imagined a little boy standing near our front door, ready to go outside. I could almost hear his toddler Muppet voice, “I’ll carry the ball, Mommy!”

I was on bedrest for the entire second half of my pregnancy, and had a lot of time (too much time) to think about the son I’d raise.

How I’d be the cool mom. Our home would be the one to refuel neighborhood kids with juice boxes and sliced oranges like the ones my teammates and I ate after soccer games when I was young.

What I didn’t, or maybe couldn’t imagine back then, was how much meeting my son would change my truth.


Once, I was Kristi all the time.

Still, I am Kristi, but am most often addressed as Mommy.

Getting to know my little boy made me an advocate for children with special needs. For knowing what parents want you to know about our kids who may be a little different from what you were expecting. 

Knowing him helped me to see that people communicate fully and completely without ever saying a word.

He is the one who helped me remember that fun, if you’re willing to see it, is kicking a pile of snow, weighing a pumpkin on a scale, or filling a sink with bubbles.

Because of my son, I take the time to chat with those I used to feel uncomfortable around. Those with disabilities, speech issues, body control issues. People.

Meeting my little boy meant that in some ways, I met more of the world. Thinking about his future helps me to think about the future of this planet. Of our government. Of fairness, and a world filled with empathy and wonder.

In many ways, meeting my son meant meeting myself. Yes, it meant meeting the me who parents him, dries tears and fields boogers with kleenex rather than a shirt, but it also meant meeting the me I want to be.

I am and will always be Kristi who likes to tell stories, eat nachos, and swim deep in the ocean with fins.
There’s so much out there, and in me. In all of us.

When I say that meeting my son meant meeting myself, I don’t mean that I didn’t exist before being a parent, because I did, and always will.

There’s a lot out there that talks about how parenting a child with special needs opens our eyes to the world. And that’s true – it is.

But it’s also true that parenting any child helps us hear the cries of all children, and all people, because while knowing that suffering and exclusion exist for others as a caring human is a real and wonderful thing, parenting one of those humans who will one day navigate the world without us helps us to hear other voices more clearly.

So while I say that meeting my son meant meeting myself, I don’t mean that there isn’t life before parenting. I know people who will never be parents who are much more self-aware than I am or ever will be.

There is, and will always be booger-wiping and nose-blowing. There will always be unforgettable moments of intense levity and insurmountable grief.

Meeting my son helped me to see that in him, in myself, and in all humans.

Well…maybe not so much of the value and levity in Voldemort.

Wait, you know what? I see the value in Voldemort, too. Because without him, who would Harry Potter really be?

Without the people we meet, would we be able to change our truths, alone?

***

kristi rieger campbell finished post for finding ninee

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “The people we meet…” and I totally planned on talking to you about meeting my bio mom, blog friends, and the moms at the bus stop, but as life does, writing happens as it happens.
This week’s sentence thinker-upper is Mardra Sikora. I met her and her awesome son Marcus (author of Black Day – remember Tucker’s favorite Halloween book? I did a review and give-away?) in real life recently, and we talked about posts about the people we meet. Because the people we meet change us, right?

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  • Dana - Oh, that last sentence! So insightful and true. As for being a parent, I think it has made me so much more aware of the fact that everyone has their own truths, and no one’s is better or worse than anyone else’s.March 24, 2017 – 6:10 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - I agree, Dana! Being a parent really does make us think about other people’s truths.March 26, 2017 – 12:43 pmReplyCancel

  • Emily - I liked this post a lot because it’s all so true and meaningful! And the last question you asked –loved it. I do believe that meeting different people changes our truths. I just took a 5-week writing class (writing humorous essays) and one of my classmates was a 75 year-old man. He was fantastic in so many ways – hilarious, great storyteller, polio survivor, widow. For our last assignment, he wrote about his different size legs and feet (caused by polio that he contracted when he was 18 mos old) and I wrote about Little Dude and his illness — we truly understood and gained so much from each other, despite the many year age difference that separates us.March 24, 2017 – 6:20 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Emily, your experience with that man sounds amazing, as does the writing class. It’s too easy to forget some of what we no longer have to worry about today that people who are still alive did have to deal with, if that makes sense. What a cool meeting. I hope I’ll soon be reading some of what you worked on there!March 26, 2017 – 12:44 pmReplyCancel

      • Kenya G. Johnson - The Seventh Sign. I haven’t seen that movie since “back then”!March 27, 2017 – 9:02 pmReplyCancel

  • Just J - There is so much truth in this post! I spent 19 years working in an agency that provided a full range of services to adults and children with special needs. That experience completely changed the way I view people, I learned far more from them than they ever did from me. And now, when I am out and about, like you I make the effort to extend a bit of conversation and friendship, to connect on the very human thread that binds all of us together. I don’t differentiate between people, we all have special needs, some perhaps more visible, and we all need to know that we belong. It only takes a moment and a smile to make the magic happen.March 25, 2017 – 2:30 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Wow, your experience working with people with special needs sounds amazing. It’s so true that we learn about ourselves from them. Here’s to connecting to everybody, regardless of what challenges each of us have. I love that you make an effort — that, in itself, is magic happening.March 26, 2017 – 12:47 pmReplyCancel

  • Allison Barrett Carter - “Meeting my son meant meeting myself.” ❤️ This pretty much sums up parenting for me. I love this, Kristi.March 25, 2017 – 2:39 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thanks, Allison! It really does change us in so many ways. I mean, I knew becoming a mom would change things but I had no idea how much it would change me for the better.March 26, 2017 – 12:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Debi Lewis - You said it all. ALL OF IT. We can never go back to who we were before we got that amazing/awful job, had that child or didn’t, met that partner who was great or awful, looked ourselves in the mirror and marveled at how old we’d gotten. We meet ourselves every day. Kristi, I really enjoyed this post — thank you.March 25, 2017 – 10:46 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you Debi! Ugh to the looking in the mirror and marveling at how old we’ve gotten. I do that a lot these days but you’re right – we do meet ourselves every day. Thank you for the sweet comment!March 26, 2017 – 12:53 pmReplyCancel

  • Kerry - Wow, orange slices and drink boxes sounds good, what you experienced and wanted to be for your child.
    But I love this line too:

    I am and will always be Kristi who likes to tell stories, eat nachos, and swim deep in the ocean with fins. There’s so much out there, and in me. In all of us.

    Snow, pumpkins, and bubbles. All fun.

    Thanks, as just one of us with special needs, for being such a fabulous advocate for your son and an example that shows the rest of the world how to be open to meeting all kinds of people.

    Love that you mention Voldemort too. I am just sad there are people so awful in real life, or close enough, but we can learn and do, from a Voldemort and a Harry and everything in between.

    This post does a great job, for anyone who may not have a child of their own, to make the human experience a universal one, one we can all see ourselves in somewhere.March 26, 2017 – 10:41 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Thank you, Kerry!! Isn’t it funny the small things we hang on to that have such good memories? I remember eating orange slices after soccer games as a kid… such a simple treat and we so looked forward to it. And yeah, snow, pumpkins, bubbles. Joy in each. Thank you so much, too, for your kind words about meeting all kinds of people.
      Voldemort sucks. So does the new he-who-must-not-be-named… but we’re each of us a little bit Harry Potter, I think. xoxoMarch 27, 2017 – 8:30 pmReplyCancel

  • Kenya G. Johnson - And I’ve become a different Kenya from reading your blog and others like it. I’d hope to be aware and friendly and more open all on my own but I know without a doubt that you’ve made me more comfortable with special needs than I know I would have been without you – and Tuck Tuck and all the others.

    SIde note: I thought of Christopher’s spirit in Heaven with my grandfather until he was actually born. If you’ve ever seen the movie Delivering Milo, it depicts something similar.March 27, 2017 – 2:28 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - Ditto, Kenya! One thing I’m deeply grateful to the world of blogging friends is that through writing, it feels as though we can each give our own perspectives, fears, worries, etc. that we might not do sitting on the sidelines of a kid’s sporting event with other parents.
      I love the idea of thinking of baby’s spirits being in Heaven until they’re born. I haven’t seen Delivering Milo but now I want to. There was another movie that talked about that years ago… that all the baby’s souls were waiting in Heaven… I’ll have to think of it. It talked about one of the Bible Stories (The Guff, I think)… and had Demi Moore in it… the world was going to end and she had to say that she’d die for her son to save all of mankind.March 27, 2017 – 8:33 pmReplyCancel

      • Kenya G. Johnson - The Seventh Sign. I haven’t seen that movie since “back then”! Unfortunately “Milo” (Anton Yelchin) died last year so I don’t think I could watch it again now 🙁March 27, 2017 – 9:07 pmReplyCancel

  • Allison G smith - Having Bear has opened up a whole other world. I too would not take the time to talk to people with disabilities. I go out of my way now to do it. In fact, I sometimes think I freak people out. Ha!March 27, 2017 – 4:55 pmReplyCancel

    • Kristi Campbell - LOL I’ll bet the people you approach are grateful. I sure would have loved to meet you at the bus stop or school or somewhere!March 27, 2017 – 8:34 pmReplyCancel

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