A mother’s love is sometimes tough

May 7, 2021
Personal Perspectives
By Reframing Disability
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When I was asked to write a blog about my mother, I thought, what could I write? How can I summarise my mother for all the awesome things she has done for me, my brother and many people in her life. I’ll get to this but having a disability, I thought I would start with a little story. I have many, many stories, but this one shows one of many reasons I love my mother more than anything else in the world. I was in Grade two, and it goes like this.

Ring, ring, ring…

Mum: Hello Pam speaking

School: Hi Pam, it’s Caningeraba school here. Marlena has had a little accident in her wheelchair. Would you be able to come and pick her up? She is quite a bit distressed.

Mum: What has happened?

School: She was walking with her friends on the path and she has tipped her electric wheelchair down the gutter. The Gardner had to pick her up. (Sidenote: For added effect, I was in the background screaming my lungs out as if I had minutes to live).

Mum: Is Marlena ok? Has she broken an arm or anything?

School: She is quite distressed, but she doesn’t appear to have broken anything.

Mum: Well it’s 2 pm now, so ill just get her at 3pm, she will be alright. Thanks for ringing.

School: But she is crying a lot and seems upset.

Mum: Is the chair broken?

School: No, it’s all good and going.

Mum: There isn’t much I can do, and I’ve got a few things to do. Tell her I’ll see her at 3. She will be ok.

School: (stunned silence)

Mum: Thanks for ringing. (Hangs up).

Conversation ends and the school admin staff, teacher’s aide and teacher were quite shocked at my mother’s non-emergent reaction. To be honest, even I was a little taken back that mum wouldn’t drop everything at that very moment and come down and save the day.

Once it was apparent mum was not on her way, there was no real need to cry and continue with the drama. My friends were there for me, and I was in a safe environment and rolling my wheelchair wasn’t really such a big deal. At 3 pm, mum rocked up in our red station wagon, then came up and had teachers, admin staff, aides, my friends and myself relive my near-death experience. Mums response was something along the lines of “You’re still breathing, Marlena, you’re ok … jump in the car now let’s go home”. That was it, nothing more said or done. I wasn’t getting any sympathy from her today. Even on the way home, I think I attempted a little cry, but mum wouldn’t have any of it.

This story isn’t a typical lovey-dovey story, but it’s one I want to think about this Mother’s Day. I was allowed to cry as a kid, but I was always supported to dust myself off and just get on with it. There has never been and never will be cotton balling in our household, and I thank mum for this. I think of a strong, stubborn and beautiful woman in my mother that has raised me hopefully to be the same. For 30 years, my mum has been my number one supporter and always will be. As a young mother, she still had hopes and dreams for her daughter, She had high expectations of me, and it just so happened I had a disability. As she saw it, the world was my oyster. So, she started creating strong foundations to ensure I had a good life. Throughout my life, my mother and I share this amazing bond. A bond that always has got me through the good and bad times of life. Without her, my life would be so different. I take after my mother in so many ways. Her teachings have not only guided me through life but made me a better woman.

In the early days, we started going to these therapy sessions in Brisbane. It was insane 3 -4 times per week (often with me and my brother screaming in the back). As a young child, she taught me life isn’t always easy and feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to get me anywhere but make it harder. She was brutal, and I love her for that. When I started kindergarten, I was still doing an intense therapy program at home. I used to come home from kindy and do 4 hours of therapy a day. We used to get volunteers to come in and support me with it. She was the queen of linking me with the right people who just clicked with me. Even from a young age, she saw the value of embracing our community. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this is so true, especially when that child has a disability. Mum was in the driving seat with her vision so ever strong but had a good bunch of people around her that just got it. Some got it more than others, but mum educated many along the way. Without a doubt, she educated the educators and professionals throughout my life. She saw the bigger picture when often others did not. She was a woman on a mission, and you were either with her or in the way of that mission. Nevertheless, she never swayed from her vision and ability to do what was needed in order for me and my brother to have a regular childhood, despite my disability challenging that from time to time.

When school started she had her mind on a mainstream school. Her mindset wasn’t normal for a parent with a child with disability in those days. The professionals told her to put me in a special school, as this was the best place for kids like me. It would be safe, and they would have people ensure I could get the education and life goals I needed. My mum saw more, and she enrolled me at a local school around the corner from our house. Working her magic on the school’s headmaster, I was accepted and went off with a few friends that I made from my preschool. On many occasions, my mum showed she would not be swayed from her vision, and the professionals were simply wrong. That is a big call to make when you are a mother fighting in a corner, often alone!! But she was right. Some teachers loved her, and some teachers hated her. My mother always had her eyes on the prize of having an inclusive education for me. She made sure that I was part of the whole school community. My mother is truly the most amazing person, and I love her more than anything.

I could have written many stories where my mother showered me in love, affection and the typical Mothers Day memories. My mother has given me endless amounts of love and affection and continues to do so. But the resilience and ability to now stand on one’s own feet is probably one of the best displays of love my mother has shown. I am non-verbal, but I sure as hell can speak for myself. I am a wheelchair user but can sure as hell stand on my own to feet. My mother has always been there for me and always will. However, being there for me sometimes means letting me fall (literally at times), letting me do stupid things at times, letting me make mistakes and also allowing me to have the space to argue and disagree with people (including her). She knew that when I fell from my chair, that her daughter could get on with her day without her help. Trusting the people around me to help me out with that problem. Leaving me to my own devices was a blessing because I could make connections with my peers and teachers myself. She knew all those years ago that while she always had my back, it is impossible for her to always be my shadow.

So this Mothers Day, I am reminded of how extremely blessed I am to have a mother like mine. I have a disability and always will. I thank my mum for not disabling me as I have grown and enabling me to have a life in a strong community of people, one which supports me, allows me to be part of, and hopefully I support them.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the awesome mothers out there!

About the writer:

Marlena Katene is Australia’s most unique entertainment journalist. Having Cerebral Palsy Marlena communicates via an ABC Board and iPad. After completing her Bachelor of Communications degree Marlena has been blessed to interview a wide range of people ranging from Ed Sheeran, Robbie Williams and even the Dalia Lama. While her journalism focuses mainly on music she also has written on other issues and freelance writes for a variety of magazines. Apart from her journalism work, Marlena is an avid traveller and adventure seeker. In 2016 she became the first person in the world with Cerebral Palsy to Base jump, achieving this feat by jumping off the 421 meter KL Tower in Malaysia. Addicted to travelling she is always seeking the next adventure and place to explore.

Reframing Disability

By Reframing Disability

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