Achievements and Aspirations

With eight weeks left to go until the due date our house is filling up with baby paraphernalia, incredibly generously provided by friends and family. We’ve been totally and utterly overwhelmed by the amount we’ve been given, and even though baby isn’t here yet we’re super excited for when it becomes our turn to pass stuff on to the new generation!

I feel really proud knowing that our little girl will be lying on, wearing and playing with things that belonged to her amazing family and friends before her. What could be better?

Amongst all the excitement the jamboree and other issues, Baby’s ‘lucky fin’ has somewhat taken a back seat. We’ve of course got all the normal stuff to be excited and worried about; there was a huge amount of relief, therefore,  when Ben’s best friend fitted our car seat for us. At least if she comes early we’ll actually be allowed to leave the hospital now!

Despite the fact that the hand has taken something of a back seat for us, jumbled in amongst health issues, a house/disaster zone and numerous car woes, we’ve still been unable to avoid comments, messages and links to inspiring videos and testimonials of one-handed people who conquered the world. When something becomes personal to you, you cannot help but notice it everywhere. Last week I was listening to the incredibly talented Nicolas McCarthy on Radio 2, with absolutely no idea that he too was born without his right hand. How utterly strange for me to hear about him now of all times, and to not even have been looking for it! The realisation that having one hand doesn’t exclude you from pursuing a musical instrument at any level was a breath of fresh air. Baby may, of course, be totally hampered by her mother’s intense musical apathy, but at least she has the option we feared she wouldn’t have.

One some days these success stories are wonderful to hear, so why then from time to time do we find all of this focus on one-handed achievements patronising and upsetting?

I think there’s an element there of the fact our little girl is going to be just that, our little girl. Just because she’s missing her right hand doesn’t mean that we’ve suddenly changed our expectations of her attainment. Nor indeed does it mean that we suddenly feel that she will be capable of less. Just because she’s got a small disability does not mean that she now needs to prove herself to us, to her family or to the world by becoming a concert pianist, a paralympian or an international one-handed climber.

Sure, she could do all of those things. Missing a hand never really meant that she could or would achieve any less, despite our initial fears borne of shock. Before we discovered her ‘lucky fin’, as we nurtured dreams of our completely flawless infant, there was no compulsion for people to reassure us that our child could be an international sports star or a world-renowned musician. What would be the need? So why now would we aspire for her to reach to such insanely high heights?

Our dreams for our daughter remain irrevocably and resolutely unchanged. We just want her to be happy. If our little girl can go through life with a sense of value, self-worth and confidence then I couldn’t care less what path she chooses to take in life. She might follow her dad, emulating his drive to achieve and his tireless motivation (so long as there’s no DIY or housework involved!). Then again she might be like me, cruising through life ever distracted by the little things around her. Either way, it’s ok.

If she grows up to be an average human being, not weighed down by medals or accolades, if she’s smiling with genuine happiness, pride and a zest for life, then we’ll be the happiest parents in the world. Please don’t get me wrong. We’ll encourage our daughter to try anything and everything she can or wants to do. Achievement and a desire for success is no bad thing; we’d be over the moon and appallingly proud if she chose to follow that route!

But that doesn’t mean I want to surround her with images of high achievers like some kind of hall of fame she should aspire to in order to justify her existence. There should be no more pressure on her tiny shoulders than any other child would have had as they came into this world. She’s already missing one hand, that’s enough in itself, without feeling like she needs to follow in the footsteps of the trailblazing one-handed greats in a bid to justify or prove her worth.

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