By Valerie Abbott
A few nights ago, I woke up in a deep panic. My heart was racing, I felt queasy. I turned to my husband, who was resting undisturbed – unaware that I had flung the comforter across the bed and that I was now standing up wide awake in the dark.
I quickly, but quietly slipped down the stairs into the kitchen. The clock on our microwave: 2:33am. I noticed the clock on our stove was one minute faster: 2:34am.
“What if we run out?!” I thought. “WHAT IF WE RUN OUT OF THEM!”
Parents of children with disabilities are members of a community that worry in a different way during a crisis, especially one that limits our ability to leave home or get important supplies delivered quickly. In addition to concerns about education, money and everyday food and goods, we have other things on our list. Access to our specialists and therapists, access to specific medical supplies, access to each other. Right now, the thought of being separated from our child with a disability – either because they are admitted to a hospital or we are – is far worse than any other fear.
But, this particular night, I was worried. About one thing in particular. As I scrambled through the designated drawer in my kitchen, I saw the box. And, when I opened it – it was full. My daughter, who is hard-of-hearing, would not run out of hearing aid batteries. We would be good for several weeks.
At first, I was relieved. Generally, if we run low on batteries it isn’t a big deal. But, this could have been a big deal. I found myself angry. Angry at myself for not having put these on the list of essential items I ordered when the pandemic first entered my state. These should have been at the top of list, I thought. Along with the canned goods and frozen dinners I loaded into my Instacart for delivery three weeks ago. What kind of mother am I?
As we all figure out how to navigate what is quickly becoming “our new normal,” rest assured that those of us with children who have disabilities may be prioritizing differently than other families. We may be anxious about different issues. Continuing our child’s education online and from home, for example, may be at the very top, or the very bottom, of the list. Instead of judgment, of ourselves and others, perhaps now is the ideal time to clap. Pat ourselves on the back. Give your friend or neighbor a thumbs up. It’s time to applaud ourselves for doing the best we can. Because we are.
**Valerie Abbott is a 1-3-6 Family Educator and Learning Community Coordinator for the Center for Family Involvement at VCU. In this dual role, Valerie works closely with parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and professionals to help reduce loss to follow up. A graduate of Hollins University, she lives in Henrico County with her husband and two daughters, one of whom is hard-of-hearing. **