Sunday, February 14, 2010

On Love, Valentines, and Ricki

[NOTE: “Valentines Day” is NOT a Jewish holiday, I am posting this rather apologetically…]



I grew up in Midwestern Illinois, and attended public school. Valentine’s day was duly celebrated each year of grade school as each of us made a decorated “mail box”, and we had to give everyone in the class a valentine. I am sure that the stationary stores loved the holiday. I am not so sure that I did. I was not that popular, and it was rather disconcerting year after year to feel my worth being measured by the type and beauty of the cards which I did/did not receive. [What in the world were educators thinking? That friendships would be fostered?????? And what about the romantic love implications, foisted on a group of young children?] All that Valentine ’s Day could have taught me is that we all desire to be loved, to be visualized as someone of worth, to be appreciated…..and it isn’t always all that painless. Also that lack of love, and rejection, can be an abraision or lesion on our fragile psyche.
To Ricki, I suspect that love and marriage seems easy and straightforward. (Any cognitively-impaired person who watches modern movies would think so. People meet, fall in love, kiss on the first date, and get married all in the space of two hours….) I generally don’t allow her to watch a lot of romantic stuff, but she has seen her older siblings getting married, and she is generally not privy to any prior knowledge until the relationship is definitely serious….. And she is certainly not a viewer of any of the difficulties, or the ups and downs that all couples invariably face.
But what would occur if Ricki would be engaged or married, and the relationship would sour? That would be difficult for her… as it is for all of us. Yet I would not advocate “no love” for the fear of a curdled relationship. Interpersonal relationships take a lot of work. And even if a couple is a solid, good one, people can change. People have disagreements. And these matters have to be faced if the relationship is to remain a solid and positive one. But a loveless life, a life where I am not really that important to anyone else on the planet, is horrific.
As Ricki behaves now, she could never maintain a lasting marriage. I hope that as she matures, she will learn to be more responsive to the feelings of others, to be able at times to let her own needs slide or be delayed for the good of someone else. And if she accomplishes that, I hope that we can help her find some young man who is suitable for her.** And after that, I would hope that there would always be someone ( I am thinking of one of her brothers….) who could help her deal with any of those inevitable arguments that couples have, and counsel the pair as needed. Because life without love is hard. But it is complicated as well……

[**readers might be puzzled that I would advocate "helping" Ricki find a partner, rather than letting her look herself. Keep in mind that in our society, match-making is the norm, and it generally works VERY well.]

10 comments:

Lucia said...

I remember watching a movie about ten years ago about a cognitively impaired couple (both adults) in a relationship. I don't remember the name of the movie, though.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Thanks for joining in the Valentine's theme posting today. I admit that I wish that Valentine's would just go away. I had similar experiences in school, except, student's weren't made to do a card for each student. I often made some for myself so I'd have some in the box. I love that you are open to a relationship for your child .... you've hit on something there about skill development 'reciprocity' is the single most important skill for the maintenance of human relationships. It's important that children with disabilities learn to value the needs of others, learn, as you said, to set aside personal fulfillment - sometimes not always - for someone else's happiness. I'd love to hear more about matchmaking do you know of it happening with other couples with disabilities ... do tell.

rickismom said...

Dave, so far in our community (as in most communities), the idea of those with intellectual disabilities having the right to marry is still young. And,living in such an insular community, it nis harder to find a match that is really fitting for someone with a disability. Most young couples look for someone with a similar family background, similar values, and then the normal factors of physical appearance, intelligence, and personality come into play. Here you have the added problem that it is hard to find someone with all the factors being fitting. On the up side, since in our community, Down syndrome is NOT a valid reason for abortion, we may in some ways have it easier than young adults living in the US and Canada.....
I DO know of a few couples with very mild cognitive disabilities marrying. Sometimes the spouse also had the same amount of disabilities, and sometimes less.
I am sure that we will see more in the upcoming years,as kids who are breaching new fences here grow up.
For couples with physical, not cognitive disabilities, there is a lot of active match-making going on. Sometimes the spouse is "normal", sometimes they have a health problem of some type themselves.

Sadderbutwisergirl said...

I remember Valentine's Day in elementary school. Whenever we had that, everyone had to make a valentine for everyone in his or her class (since we stayed in one room all day, it wasn't such a hard job!). It even extended to sixth grade, even though we were considered to be in middle school and so were switching classes. So you had to make a valentine for everyone in your homeroom or else don't make any at all. Any outside valentines were to be given outside of school. Once we were in seventh grade, however, then there came the mode of competition over carnations and kisses being sent on V-Day!
About marriage, it isn't always that both partners are disabled or non-disabled. Sometimes, there is one neurologically disabled person paired up with someone without any simply because their personalities match up in some other way, common interests, or physical attraction.

rickismom said...

Sadderbut wisergirl, obviously! (What you said: "About marriage, it isn't always that both partners are disabled....") The possibilities are endless.
In fact, I know a young woman who was GLAD she had a mild birth defect, because it made her willing to consider a very nice smart young man who happened to have a family background that was not the best.
And sometimes people who have differing types of disabilities can manage much better, simply because they don't have the SAME impairments, so each can help the other.
And often, you get someone who is "normal", who goes and marries someone with a disability, simply because they LOVE them.
My community TENDS to have each segmant of the community marrying into families with similar backgrounds, but the rules of the game get bent quite a bit.

Sadderbutwisergirl said...

@rickismom: I was having a conversation about relationships and disability with my dad. My dad made reference to people "looking past" disabilities and focusing on the people with the disabilities. I told him that I didn't believe in looking past disabilities at all. He was surprised until I explained why. When disability is meant to be something to "look past" like a fault of character, then having a disability is obviously supposed to make the person less valuable as a partner. I do agree with judging a person for who s/he is instead of what s/he is, but I also don't agree with the concept of "looking past" a disability.

rickismom said...

Theoretically I agree with what you are saying, sadderbutwiser, BUT... sometimes a disability- and equally so (and much often, MORE so) a personality quirk - does make life harder, or certain activities even impossible. I think that a non-smoker who gets headaches from smoke might be wise to see "smoking" as a possible impairment to marriage, and someone who really desires a large family could rightly see a woman with a very bad heart condition who has been advised not to get pregnant, as not suitable for them. THEN in either case, the prospective spouse might just say: I anyway want to marry them , because we have so many things in common and get on so well. And I will forgo the big family or learn to exist with cigarettes.
Disability can be limiting. Some people may decide that they don't want a spouse with a disability, because they don't want the hastle. [THEY may very well be the ones who are losing out.][And they may well descover that this person has hidden mental problems. Or an accident can happen. There are no guarentees in life....] But if the disability WILL affect the spouse, (and this effect could be positive as well), to pretend that the disability is not there is not being fair.It should CERTAINLY not be seen as the sum of the person, nor the dominant aspect, but it is a reality that needs to be dealt with.

Sadderbutwisergirl said...

@rickismom: I understand what you mean about disability getting in the way of certain things that the other person might want. However, I was referring more to the saccharine-sweet "I love her despite her disability" that shows that even though this person is so innately flawed by virtue of his/her disability, s/he is still loved. That kind of thing where a person is seen as so innately flawed due to his/her disability that someone has to look past it in order to like or love them I don't agree with. That kind of attitude is condescending and puts the disabled person on a lower plane than one who is nondisabled. That I don't agree with. You see what I mean now?

rickismom said...

Oh, definately! This type of comment , similar to the "Oh these kids (ie, with Down s.) are SO sweet" drives me crazy.

FridaWrites said...

Rickismom, I am always so impressed with your mothering and everything you do for your daughter.

I love the idea of matchmaking and sometimes wonder if the older generation comes up with possibilities that the younger generation might not have thought of.