I Have a Dream for my Child
One of my January rituals involves reading and listening to Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This year, I began to reflect on his words in a different way. I have been thinking about it through the eyes of a parent. My husband and I (both retired military) have a son who is now 24 years old. This son lost his hearing at seven months due to bacterial meningitis. Over the years I sometimes have thought how our life might have been different if he did not have hearing loss, but realize we were given this path for a reason and it is futile to wonder “what if.” From his infancy on, I have seen myself as his advocate and at times his voice, both literally and figuratively.
Now that he is a young adult, I think perhaps I should have been more curious and asked more questions about what he really wanted for his life, cultivating his natural abilities and not be so overly focused on the daily tasks to be done.
Martin Luther King talked about “now is the time” and Hands & Voices focuses on “the time is now for an idea whose time has come.” The time has come for our children to have total access to the American dream. Access to that dream will come with advocacy, collaboration and cooperation with others. Access can be accomplished with the work of self-advocates, parents, professionals and all community members, with a joint vision and that dream, for my son to know the dignity of work and full inclusion in every aspect of this great nation.
I am working to adjust my role as advocate into more of a role as a partner and not be so ready to come up with the solution, but to form a partnership for success as he navigates his own personal journey and the choices he will now make for himself and the changes that will come in our relationship to each other. I have acted in the role of an advocate all of his life; stepping out of that role will be easier said than done.
Next up for me? I am working towards becoming a special education teacher to work with children with disabilities and their parents. My student teaching begins soon at an elementary school, and that has brought me back to thoughts of my son being so young when he started school. I began to reflect on things my parents told me as I was growing up. They would say “I want you to be happy and satisfied with your life and how you are living your life.” We did not have conversations about advocacy. Our talks were focused on feeling that I was doing something worthwhile, something that satisfied me. Reflecting on those times with my own parents, I jotted down a few of my thoughts and hopes and dreams that I have always had for my son using the theme of the “I Have a Dream” speech.
Did you know that dreams can come true? We have built an organization and a group of people at Hands & Voices who can assist us in making this dream a reality. It started with a group of parents with similar dreams for their children. They dared to dream and now that dream has blossomed into an international organization with more than 50 chapters on three continents.
I think as a parent it is difficult to change from “parent” to “partner.” Stephen Covey famously said “Begin with the End in Mind.” What is it that your child dreams or desires for themselves? Be a joint partner in helping make that dream a reality. How do you create that for your child? How do you create the environment in which they can even dream and desire and not worry about all the tasks that must be accomplished? Avail yourself of all the resources available to you as a parent or a professional. Dare to dream!
Iris is a parent guide for the Texas H&V GBYS program