Posted by: zenmamajo | March 6, 2012

Why You Shouldn’t Assume People With Disabilities Aren’t Happy

do these faces look like the faces of unhappy kids?

how about this?

dancing with the sisters

and this?

more dancin'

i’ve mentioned my delightful (often mischievous yet), charming kids before and shared how my 3yr-old, second born has cerebral palsy. she uses a walker to get around which draws a lot of curious stares (not glances but stares…) when we’re out. i wasn’t sure how to feel or address the looks at first then i realized it’s natural to be curious and it’s a great teachable moment for my child and the passerby. but i’ll share the reasons why in another post.

i’ve gotten pretty good at discerning between genuinely curious stares and pity stares. you know the kind, the people who see my daughter in her walker and let out an audible “oooooooohhhh….” with an obvious pity face, sometimes even pointing. some will cover it up by adding things like “she’s so cute” or “look at her go with her walker”. no one’s ever had the cajones to voice what he/she’s really thinking…until last week that is…

we were at st louis children’s hospital (a children’s hospital of all places…) and my three girls and i had just boarded an elevator with a man and woman (unacquainted with one another). the woman let out the usual audible ‘oooohhhhh’ then followed it by saying “that’s so saaaaad!”


my composed internal monologue: “did she really just say that aloud?”
my ‘ethnic’ internal monologue: “oh no she didn’t just say that about my baby girl!”

what i did:

looked her right in the eye…smiled as friendly as i could…gently placed my hand on her shoulder and said “it’s not sad: this is her life.”

in hindsight i could have said many more things but 1 – our elevator had reached our destination and 2 – inwardly i felt flustered and didn’t want to say something rude in response to her…honesty.

now that i’ve had time to collect my thoughts, i’m really not upset – in fact, i’m glad it happened. i feel better prepared to address that assumption from now on. the assumption that our (family’s) life is “sad” and unfulfilled because of her disability. is life how we thought it would be? no – but whose life is? quite frankly – maybe it’s just our family – but we do quite a bit of things that most families do – just not as frequently or as quickly. all my kids: play, visit parks, swim, cook, the 3yr olds are even learning to recognize letters/sounds/numbers, bike ride, take trips and the list goes on…

everyone’s life will include struggles and successes. not all struggles are “sad” – tough maybe, but not necessarily sad. often times it is our struggles that build character, deepens appreciation, and broadens our understanding of things. these collective experiences are also what makes each of us interesting and useful to one another as our lives intersect.

so take it from these faces – their lives are far from ‘sad’…on the contrary – these kids know how to enjoy life.



  1. A beautiful post with pictures of three beautiful girls. Keep ’em coming! 🙂

  2. Such a beautiful post. I love the three happy faces! Your daughters are beautiful! And, I think you handled the situation just right — you took the higher path and I’m sure taught her something. Maybe she’ll think before she speaks next time.

  3. thank you yes – i hope she does – talk about awkward moment *haha*

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